The 5 Best Things You Can Do When Networking
OK, we have all been at that local chamber of commerce meeting (or similar networking opportunity) that you know you need to attend to get your name out there and meet all the connections you can. Some of us have been a little timid to jump in while others were ready to go and were probably talking to 5 people before the host even says hello. No matter whether you are the skilled networker or new to the arena I want to discuss the 5 best things you can do when networking.
#1 Bring Business Cards
This sounds like common sense 101, but it happens. You arrive to find that you left your stack of cards in the office. You want to make sure you have something to leave behind because you’re meeting a lot of people and the people you meet are also meeting a lot of people. While I’m sure we would love to believe that we have made such an amazing impression that everyone will remember us, we all know the truth that most people can’t even recall more than a few names from an event like this.
If you forgot your business card, write your name on everyone’s hand! I’m totally kidding, don’t write on me… But seriously what do you do if you forgot or ran out? Make sure to get the card of the person you are talking to and follow up with them. Make a comedic comment like, "Hey Bill, it was great to meet you last night at the networking event. I’m the guy who donated all my business cards to the sick children at the hospital so they could play business card go fish! Fortunately, you can find my contact info below in this email."
#2 Jump in to a conversation
I’m not talking about rudely barging in to a conversation, but have you ever been at a networking event and there are little circles everywhere with 3-5 people all talking about a common topic and you are standing there thinking that I am obviously the most amazing person here I’m surprised everyone isn’t rushing over to me?
Best practice here is to migrate over to a group and ask someone who is not talking if you can jump in. Make sure to not interrupt the person talking, but this will get you in the group and you can now contribute. Remember networking events are not about telling people how awesome you are, even though we all know you are. The idea is to find a common denominator so you having something to connect on later. For example, I was at a networking event a few months ago and found out that the person presenting went to my church. He was friends with a few people in the room, so I used his name as a starting point. "Hey Tom, how do you know Bob?" You can do this anytime there is a presentation, "Hey Tom, have you heard Bob speak before?" Once you have a starting point then you can search for other things you have in common. This helps for follow up emails and phone calls by providing a conversation starter.
#3 Be okay with not talking to everyone
Obviously you want to meet everyone you can because we all know that you are awesome and they need to know that too, right? To be honest, meeting 2-3 quality people in a 15-30 minute event is an accomplishment. Focus on quality not quantity at these events. One relationship can make it all worth while.
#4 Do a little research. Have a goal.
If you know or can find out who will be at an event do a little research before you get there. Set a goal for who you want to meet and be prepared to talk with them. We know in business that they best way to accomplish what you want is to set a goal and follow the steps required to meet you goal. So if you want to meet two specific people, have some insight into who they are and what they like so when you see them you can easily start the conversation. You may target this person because they are difficult to get a hold of or they may be visiting from somewhere. Caveat, don’t be a stalker and don’t dig so deep that the person will be scared of you. Surface level stuff like their job, maybe some hobbies listed on LinkedIn. You’re just looking for a conversation starter you’re not trying to write a book about them.
#5 Follow Up
Nothing is more annoying than a huge stack of business cards and not being able to remember where or when you met the person. Best practice here is to email the person within 3 days. That way your conversations are fresh in both your minds and you can keep the conversation going before things start to slip into oblivion. Obviously the more the person you connected with remembers you the more likely they are to reply to your email. Not to mention, no one wants to get the "who are you again" question!
At the end of the day, we all want to be better at networking and there are 100 things we can do to get better. This is just a starting point. The best way to keep getting better is to go to more networking events. Employ these tricks, learn some new ones, and build your own. If you need help, ask a co-worker to go with you to a few until you get your feet wet. But the most important thing is to just go.
Do you have any tips and tricks for making a networking event great? Comment below and let's talk about them!