Have you ever wavered on going to a networking event and left feeling glad you did because it was incredibly productive? I have.
I know how hard it can be to walk into a room full of people you do not know and introduce yourself. My top six personal tips will help you make the most of your networking experience.
1) Have a plan before you go. – whom do you want to meet?
Make a list of five targets and reach out before the event, so the face-to-face introduction is a little warmer. Most events have Facebook or LinkedIn groups so you can see the guest list beforehand. Join these groups and add value, videos are a great idea. If your content is excellent and makes an impact, you may be approached by some people at the event.You are setting the stage and will feel more comfortable entering the room knowing you have a plan in place.
How do I start a conversation with someone I have not met? Look them in the eye, shake their hand and introduce yourself. You are at a networking event; we expect it.
2) Arrive early, get acclimated, and dive right in. I have found this is an excellent way to stay grounded, break the ice, and greet others as they arrive. It is easier to have conversations with fewer distractions in the room.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone and noticed they are listening to you with the side of their head and their eyes are roaming the room to see who is there? Not a great way to show you care.
If you cannot arrive early, survey the room; see who is there.
- Identify people you may already know
- Look for the popular people. These are people who can’t walk two feet without being stopped or have a large crowd around them. Make it a point to find out who these people are and meet them. Chances are you will engage with other people in the immediate area.
- Find your targets. They will introduce you to others in the immediate vicinity, and the conversations flow from there.
3) Make a statement. – Are you an average Joe? What will you do to make a statement once you enter the room? I am not only talking about how we look but our confidence level. Why do you think fashion models wear their clothes so well? Confidence. It makes the outfit.
Everything we do or don’t do sends a message. Every interaction is a potential job interview.
- Dress to impress
- Be well-groomed
- Have a firm handshake and look the other person in the eye as you shake.
- DON’T skimp on your business card! Make sure it is high quality and depicts who you are and what you have to offer. I know business cards can be costly, but it is an extension of you and their takeaway! Check out www.Moo.com.
- Look at others business card before stuffing it into your pocket; this is a sign of respect.
- Make notes about your conversation on the back of the card or your phone.
- Be a good listener and ask open-ended questions that give you more information about the person. Celeste Headlee said it beautifully in her TED Talk “You do not have to show someone you are listening if you are listening.
If you present yourself as an expert, the best, or a professional, everything else needs to match your words. Unfortunately, people judge. We want every aspect of how we present ourselves to align.
4) Keep it moving – acknowledge your friends and existing connections, they may introduce to people you do not know, but don’t hang out talking to them the entire time. You are there to make new connections and nurture existing ones. I have a goal of meeting at least 5-10 new people at each event. The more I do this, the easier it gets.
5) Know how to talk about your business – Your elevator pitch should be clear, concise, and give the listener a compelling reason to take action or learn more. I always end with what makes me different. People want to know why they should refer or do business with you, especially in a room where there are many others in the same industry.
I highly recommend spending $5 on a copy of “This Book Will Teach Your How To Write Better” By Neville Medhora. In just 50 pages you will know how to write copy that sells and talk about your business in the least amount of words.
People tend to remember the first and last thing you said. Avoid industry jargon that most people will not understand.
6) Send a follow-up email right after the event. It shows interest and will help you stand out. Too many people do not do this. We need to stay fresh in others minds. If you took notes about while speaking with them, reference something in your follow-up email.
We meet many people at these events and what we choose to do will make or break our experience.
Please share your tips in the comments below. I look forward to hearing them!