If you’re here, you are probably somewhat comfortable navigating through “social networking” online. But for many people, it is difficult to enter a room where you know nobody, in the hopes of networking to further your business/career/etc.
There are people who are experts at this, and I have watched and learned. I also recently attended a workshop put on by the Junior League of Toronto, where Deb Lewis, CEO of CityEvents, talked about The ARt of Networking.
Here are my top 5 tips based on what I’ve seen and practiced myself.
- Set a goal. Start small – “I will meet and exchange contact information with 2 people tonight.” I might even suggest staying small – garnering 2 quality contacts, with whom you’ve connected, is often better than meeting and handing out your card to 15 people who won’t remember who you were.
- Prepare and practice your “elevator speech” – your 30 seconds to answer the dreaded question “What do you do?”. Think about how you are different from others in your field, how you add value, and what your “Brand” is.
- Join odd groups. I don’t mean strange, but uneven numbers. I spent years of joining tables or groups of two, thinking it was less threatening. To my chagrin, almost every time, those two people were in conversations which were difficult to break into, and I was left hoping a 4th would join us… Find groups of 1, 3, or 5 people. Often, one of these people is less engaged, you can join in naturally during a break in conversation, and get to know that “odd” person.
- Talk less, listen more. Ask the people you meet questions about themselves. Find out what they do, what their challenges are, what their goals are, etc. Not only will you be thought of as a great conversationalist, you’ll also gain valuable info that can help you show them how you can add value for them.
- Follow up. This is key. Within 48 hours of the networking event, follow up, by email, phone, or even a personal card. (Of course, this tip assumes you’ve exchanged contact info – always bring your cards). Mention something you discussed, and let them know that you’d like to stay in touch. Depending on your conversations and your business, this may be an opportunity for a “sales” pitch – eg. “You mentioned your challenges with ____. That’s what I specialize in. I’d love to help you with that.” Notice the sales pitch is about them, not you.
If you do all of these, you will quickly become more comfortable in that room where you know nobody.
This is not an exhaustive list, so please add your own tips and suggestions in the comments, or tweet them to me.
Pic used with permission from Microsoft.