You’ll never be short of networking events around the OC area. Being the entrepreneurs that we are, we want to make sure that we’re milking every bit of value that we can out of these sessions, and one of the most effective ways to get that value is to network with other event attendees.

You’ve probably heard a bunch of different quotes about networking, like “Your network is your net worth” and “Who you know is more important than what you know”. These are mostly true due to the referral-heavy society we live in today. We place quite a bit of trust into the word of our peers. Even in the corporate world, you’ll find that companies are starting to favor employee referrals, with 88% of employers saying that referrals are the ‘best hires’.

In the context of startups and entrepreneurs, though, you don’t really want to network to find a job, right? But maybe you’re on the hunt for someone who can round out your team, like a veteran sales rep or a talented programmer. As long as you know how to network at events, you will either find who you’re looking for, or someone who knows someone who can help you.

But how exactly do you network at events? Aren’t you just talking to people? Yes, actually. Networking can be rather nerve-wracking for a beginner since first impressions are hugely important, but consider this. One of the most valuable pieces of advice I’ve heard in regards to networking was to treat it like you’re trying to make friends. Don’t try to sell yourself and brag about your accomplishments – just get to know them as a person rather than their position in a company. Find some common interests that you can talk about, as irrelevant as it may be. Sports, video games, food, movies, or my personal favorite: TV shows. I can talk about Westworld for HOURS.

The importance of treating networking like making friends is to make you comfortable. As you and your conversation partner keep talking, you start to form a connection. You become more memorable, a friend, someone that they WANT to help out. You’re more likely to be remembered than the guy who pulled out his résumé and started talking about his internships.

This type of networking isn’t for everyone, of course. Certain events may be too professional to have a conversation about the hottest food truck. Some people dislike small talk and that’s totally fine! I’m simply offering you an alternative networking philosophy that has worked for myself and some colleagues.

Pro Desk Space, a coworking space in Downtown Fullerton, hosts several different events each month that are attended by professionals in a variety of fields. If you’re looking for networking events in Orange County, check out the event calendar and start making some friends!

Written by Juan Juy, Vice President of SphereHero