When you are networking… the answer is, “Yes!” There are things you must “DO” before you attend a networking event.
Before you attend a networking event, your first action should be to do your homework. Assess the event to decide if you will benefit from it. Is there a sponsor you should meet? Who will attend. Will it be fun? Can you make it fun?
There are so many meeting you have to go to, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself. Focus on the value of meeting new people, exchanging pleasantries and getting the business cards of those who impress you as someone you should include in your network.
Don’t hangout in the hallway. That may look to some that you are scared to come in. Glance around, checking the layout of the room. Where are the people who look like they know what they are doing congregating?
Don’t be shy. Initiate conversations – “with people you do not know.” Networking events are not times to visit with your friends. That doesn’t mean you ignore them. You can always talk to your friends at another time. Once you are in the room walk up to someone new and start talking. Lead with questions that cannot be answered with yes or no. Chat for a while and move on to someone else. Initiating conversation sometimes feels like you might be setting yourself up with rejection, however you attend these events to meet new people and you cannot afford to be a wallflower. I often look for someone who is standing alone to the side observing, clutching a drink and looking uncomfortable. They usually welcome your conversation because you saved them from anonymity. Check ’em out.
Another action… remember to bring your business cards. Not everyone should have your card. The exchange of business cards should follow a conversation in which rapport has been established. If you want to give your card to someone, but they have not asked for it, ask for theirs first. Most people will respond in kind, especially if you make your card available, obviously read to trade.
Do be an effective networker, you must take action to prepare yourself for whatever happens, including your small talk. Silence is downright boring. Topics might include the purpose for which you are meeting, business news happenings, and even the weather. You already have something in common because you are attending the same event. Ask about the successes they have had while networking. Being prepared will allow you to keep the conversation on a positive note if talk begins to go south.
The action of a smile can mean a lot when networking. Make eye contact. Shake hands like you mean it. When you say “it’s nice to meet you,” be sure your face matches your words. Speak sincerely. People can very quickly spot someone who doesn’t know that networking is about building relationships, not trying to sell someone something that you just met. Make introductions to people you think may be helpful to someone you’ve just met. Always remember to tell people what you do that might benefit them. Prepare! Speak it in a way that will have them ask more questions. NEVER begin a networking conversation with, “What do you do?”
Don’t get bogged down with talking to one person. Learn to gracefully move on to someone else. You’re there to make new acquaintances. To make your exit easier, take this action… wait until you are finished talking, smile and say, “Excuse me, it’s been nice talking with you. I hope you have a great evening.” If you choose to follow up with them, you may want to tell them you will give them a call to arrange a time to get together to get to know each other better. If they are receptive… remember to keep your word. Want more about “follow up?” Click here!
Remember to wear a smile and remember the reason you are there! Have a good time.
Copyright © 2014 – Larry James. Adapted from Larry’s latest book, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Networking Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. Something NEW about Networking is posted on this Networking BLOG every 4th day! Visit Larry’s Networking Website at: “Networking HQ!”
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