When you know exactly who you want to meet or the particular type of people or services you are looking for, you will be far more ready and likely to network productively, than if you wander aimlessly into a sea of people.
Before you attend your next event, ask yourself these simple questions:
• Why am I going? If you were forced to attend – move to the next question!
• What would make it worth the investment of my precious time?
• What new information will be most useful to me?
• What questions do I want answered by the speakers?
• Who can I contact ahead of time to arrange a brief meeting?
• What do I need to know about the key people there?
• What information will my non-attending colleagues appreciate?
A Few Pointers Towards Success
Decide to be more proactive about meeting new contacts. If necessary, get out more – invest the time to do it. Although some of these tips may be obvious, ask yourself “What do I do with this knowledge at the moment?” Set out to achieve a target to meet, say, three new people before leaving any event and increase this number as your confidence and/or expertise grows. Remember, meeting people is always about quality not quantity.
Stop spending the majority of time at events with people you already know. It’s called ‘clumping’. Don’t shun any of your colleagues and friends, but focus more of your energies on meeting new people. Sit next to people you don’t know at conferences – especially at events organised by your company.
Engage Others in Conversation
When meeting someone new, savvy people ask themselves “How useful is this person to my entire network?” A poor networker asks “What can this person do for me?” The interesting point is: good networkers not only build an admirable reputation, they benefit more than those who take a self-centred approach. Demonstrate that you are someone who is or could be worth knowing. What do you need to do to be someone who is thought of as a great person to have around? Is it you or your position in the company that gets the invitations? Who do you know? And who knows you?
What to do Next
At certain events, between 10-20% of delegates/ guests don’t turn up. Event planners refer to them as ‘No shows’. Woody Allen said “80% of success is simply showing up.” If you say you’re going to be there – be there. Your reputation is important. Become known as someone who is reliable. If you really can’t attend due to something unavoidable, contact your hosts ahead of time to let them know. Once you have confirmed you will be attending an event, request a list of attendees. Most organisers will oblige, especially if you have paid to attend. Don’t do this under the misguided belief that it will help you decide if it’s worth going – that’s very rude.
Scan the delegate list for those you know already. Identify individuals you don’t know but would like to meet. Call or email the people you know to say that you’re looking forward to meeting them at this event, and ask if they know those you would like to meet. Be honest and upfront about it. Offer to do the same for them. Repeat this to a few of your contacts and you will almost certainly have introductions to a few of the individuals you have identified.
Do some research about them – ask colleagues. Visit their company website. You will appear far better informed if you can weave some of this information into conversation, but don’t use your new-found information to bombard them with facts about themselves – you could come across as a ‘stalker’! Preparation will help ease any pre-event jitters you may have. Even if introductions are not promised, you have made a connection and offered help to someone who will appreciate your consideration and you will be more likely to look forward to the event.
If it’s a social gathering, ask the host/ess who will be there? Who do they recommend you meet? Why? Would the host be willing to make an introduction? If you are attending as a team member, prepare and share mini-biographies on your ‘targets’, check and agree the three messages you wish to convey about your firm and, if possible, what information you wish to gather. Determine to find out enough about those you meet to help them in some way. This does not mean selling them your products or services! Think through what you would like help with. What advice/information are you looking for? New suppliers perhaps?
What to Take With You
• Business cards – lots of them. Obvious, but so many people ‘forget’ to take them to networking events
• A small note pad/self-adhesive notes and a pen
• A delegate list if you have one
• Breath fresheners and deodorant (!)
• DO NOT take brochures or flyers about your company, products or services.
When You Arrive
Arrive early whenever possible and get involved. Offer to help the organisers – it will give you something to take your mind off any nervousness you might have. Being a greeter at the registration table will ensure you meet everyone. Later, you will be seen as a friendly face. More people will start to talk to you. Ask the organiser to suggest people you should meet and ask to be introduced. Being early will make it easier to start conversations, as few will have ‘paired up’ at that stage. It’s also likely that you and your conversation partner will be joined by other early arrivals. By the time the event gets into full swing you will have already met a handful of people.
If given a badge, wear it. If you have your own, wear that. (More and more people get their badges specially made to include their company name or a slogan designed to provoke a conversation – some work better than others!) Wear your badge on your right side so when you shake hands your badge is in their direct line of sight. Don’t go around peering at the badges of others (even if it’s because you forgot your glasses!) – it can appear as if you are trying to see if the person is important enough to talk to.
Walk into a Room with Confidence
Walking into a room of people you don’t know can be intimidating. Anyone who feels particularly uncomfortable about it is less likely to go out of their way to get into such a position. This may protect you from feeling uncomfortable, but it won’t help you meet new people. When you DO put yourself through such potential torture – it’s so easy to give the situation far more attention and importance than it deserves. A huge proportion of people feel uncomfortable about it. Odds are five out of every six people you see at an event feel equally uncomfortable.
Focus on putting other people at their ease. By choosing to act as a ‘host’, regardless of whether it’s your event or not, you are actively concerned, not with your own discomfort, but with ensuring the comfort of others. You will forget about your own feelings. Look for people standing on their own and set yourself the task of helping them to feel better about being there. Word of warning. Sometimes you’ll discover why they were on their own! If they turn out to be obnoxious, ignorant, arrogant or smelly – introduce them to someone else who you also know to be similarly obnoxious! You will be doing everyone else a favour.
Promise yourself that you won’t think others don’t want to talk to you just because they ‘look’ arrogant or aloof. Most of the time these people send out such vibes because they are feeling so shy and uncomfortable. Do you do that yourself? Similarly, just because someone doesn’t look at you when you are in conversation, doesn’t necessarily mean they are uninterested. Again it could be shyness. Or they are straining to hear you in a noisy environment and are directing their ear towards you because they don’t want to miss a single word of what you have to say!
Here’s a tip to overcome extreme shyness; take on the qualities of the people you admire for their confidence and charisma. By ‘acting’ like them you acquire those positive traits for yourself. It works, give it a go. No-one need know that it’s an act. Although a John Wayne style walk could give it away! How confident you feel and how confident you look are not the same. If you don’t feel particularly confident, learn to stand upright with your feet slightly apart. Don’t fold your arms, or cover your mouth with your hand. Make eye contact with those around you and have a smile on your face – this doesn’t mean you must grin like a Cheshire cat. Be welcoming not intimidating. Send out signals that you would welcome a conversation with others. This will increase the likelihood it will happen.
Stand up. Sitting down at a networking event doesn’t work.
This article is an excerpt from Meet, Greet and Prosper by Roy Sheppard.
For more information about Roy and his other publications, go to: http://www.royspeaks.com/N-Author.html