Networking tips: How to make a strong first impression


When it comes to networking, finding your voice can be tough.

That’s why we partnered with Mindtrust Leadership for Mix & Mingle: Own your career, which took place at Impact Hub Ottawa on May 30, 2024.

We all sometimes feel the difficulty and strain of reconnecting and socializing after so long in isolation, so we wanted to help you build networking skills to get you where you want to go in your professional life. 

Our speaker, Operations Manager at Impact Hub and Mindtrust alumna, Keshana King, spoke about how to make a strong first impression while staying true to yourself. She started off by letting us know that networking—funny enough—is a whole lot like shoe shopping.

Keshana's Key Takeaways

1. What you have is enough

Use your past—your experiences, upbringing, skills and interests—to bring your authentic self to your career approach. Networking is like shoe shopping in that you don’t always need a new pair. 

2. Comfort is key

Define clearly what you want out of your career, then tell people about it and invite them to help you. Brace yourself for the long haul. Networking is like shoe shopping in that you should wear something comfortable.  

3. Everybody needs a platform

Take steps today to share what you’re doing, what you’re learning, and how you’re helping others. Networking is like shoe shopping in that everybody needs a “platform” to know others and be known. 

Networking in style

Check out the photo gallery for some of our favourite moments of the night. You can find the full album on our Facebook page.  

If you loved what Keshana had to say, you’re in luck! She answered a few burning networking questions from the GenNext team and event attendees. 



What is your #1 tip going into a networking event?

Make sure you talk to someone who’s alone or in a group of three or more, never a group of two. 


What is your favourite conversation starter?

If we’re at a conference or event that has sessions, I like to ask people what part they’ve enjoyed the most so far or ask what brought them to this event.  If you’re really stuck, you can always fall back on complimenting something someone else is wearing.  


What is the best way to follow up after making a connection?

First, make sure you follow up within 24 hours or less because you want to be timely. Then, make sure you reference something specific that you discussed at the event. Lastly, tell the other person how they can help you. 


If I’m nervous about networking, should I fly solo or bring a friend?

Bring a friend. Start networking together, split up and then at the end meet back and compare your progress. 


Where do you find networking events that are the right fit for you?

There are so many that it can be difficult to choose. It depends on where you want to go in your career. I would define your goal first, then pick events in that industry. It depends if you want to connect with peers or those at different levels in your career. That will influence which events you attend.   


How do you craft an elevator pitch about yourself?

Introduce yourself with a pause between your first and last name. Tell people about your mission before you tell them about your credentials. Then share the highlights and things that make you qualified. Finish with how you can help them or a suggestion of how they can help you. And make sure you practice!


How do you end a conversation at a networking event without coming across rude or abrupt?

“I want to continue this conversation but I’m afraid we won’t have enough time tonight. Can we stay connected by email or LinkedIn to talk more?” Once you exchange contacts, thank them and remember to follow up in a timely way!   


How do I develop more meaningful connections with people I meet at networking events?

We’ll take this one, thanks for sharing your wisdom Keshana!

Last year, GenNext hosted Mix & Mingle: Building Connections and learned from Jane Porter and Melissa Hammell from Bridge Building Group on how to take connections past those LinkedIn invitations and level up your networking skills. If you missed it, check out the recap blog here. 

Making connections for a great cause

Proceeds from this event went to one of GenNext’s four causes: Equitable Employment. Thanks to you, we’re able to provide training and mentorship opportunities for newcomers, people with disabilities, and youth, who face barriers to inclusion in the workforce. As part of United Way East Ontario, GenNext works with our local partners ensure more people can find jobs that give them a sense of purpose and belonging. 

Special thank you to our sponsors

Events like this one wouldn’t be possible without our generous sponsors and partners: 

💚 Impact Hub Ottawa 

💚 Top Shelf Distillers 

💚 Dominion City Brewing Co. 

💚 Mindtrust Leadership 

Never miss an update! Subscribe to our newsletter to receive stories of local love, event invites, volunteer opportunities, helpful highlights from our partners, the latest news and initiatives from GenNext East Ontario, and so much more.


Similar Stories

GenNext’s BATL for Mental Health brought people together for an evening of axe throwing, community connection, philanthropy and fun.
From sample emails to social media posts, this toolkit has everything you need to help you achieve your BATL for Mental Health fundraising goal.
Receive the latest news

Subscribe to our
bi-monthly newsletter

Get stories of local love, event invites, volunteer opportunities, helpful highlights from our partners, updates on our impact, and so much more.