Have you ever been to a networking event and found you gave out lots of business cards but nobody called you back? Hmm…. not what you want. Chances are, you don’t know how to work the room to maximize your efforts.
How to make the most out of a networking event.
1. Arrive early
It’s much easier to strike up a conversation one-on-one than when people are already talking in groups. When you arrive at a networking event early, it gives you the chance to make a more meaningful connection with someone. That’s because there are less distractions when meeting other early birds. Approach someone who is standing alone because they are often feeling very uncomfortable at these events. The fact that you go over to them makes them feel important, reduces their stress and often as a result will subconsciously thank you and remember you.
2. Introduce yourself to the organizers
On arrival, introduce yourself to the host and the organizers. They hold the key to everyone’s details who is attending the event. They also have the ability to make introductions and recommendations. Also introduce yourself to the volunteers and assistants as they very often are marginalized. By acknowledging them and making them feel important, you are more likely to create a lasting impression. As a result, they are likely to mention you to other influential people where they can offer introductions and referrals.
3. Turn your phone off
Next time you attend a networking event – watch how many people keep their phone on and keep looking at their phone. This means they are not committed to networking! What’s going on in their work or private life is more interesting and important than what could be gained from attending the event. Don’t be tempted to fall into this trap. Turn your phone off or to silent as a mark of respect to others around you. If something is so urgent (like your pregnant spouse is about to go into labor) have the courtesy to let the people around know why you need your phone on. If you do have to take an important call, leave the room and speak in private.
4. Treat others with respect and dignity
When talking to someone, give them your full attention and don’t be distracted by the events or people around you. Next time you are at a networking event – observe how many people are looking around the room when talking to people. A big no no! If you want to make that connection – you cannot be distracted by what’s going on around you. Remember, people like feeling listened to and heard. Treat everyone with respect and integrity.
Never interrupt a group of people deep in conversation. It’s not very cool to barge into a conversation, introduce yourself and hand over your business card. It’s rude and can be embarrassing. If you want to join into a conversation where there is a group of people talking, join in politely.
5. Move on politely
You also don’t want to limit yourself by getting stuck talking to one person. At the appropriate time, conclude the conversation and move on. If you don’t think you can help each other, be polite, exchange business cards and excuse yourself politely. One way to politely excuse yourself is to say… “Let me introduce to …. I think you’ll find them interesting.” That way you excuse yourself without the other person feeling like you abandoned them.
6. Collect business cards
A key objective when networking is to collect business cards as opposed to giving yours out. Why? Because it gives you control. If you have their contact details, you have the ability to follow up and call them instead of waiting for them to contact you. If you failed to make a meaningful connection, chances are your business card will go in the bin or if they do keep it, they may not remember you.
7. Connect your contacts and give referrals
Focus on what you can do for others rather than on what they can do for you. Nobody likes a pushy salesperson and nobody likes being sold to. When you pitch your products and services at a networking event this is how you come across. Your goal is to find out about others. If they are not your target market, then refer them to someone who is.
A powerful way to increase your connections, is to connect your contacts with your other contacts. This is because you can’t be all things to all people. When you do people a favor, they are internally driven to reciprocate your favor with an act of kindness. It’s known in metaphysics as the law of reciprocity. Whatever you give out will determine what you get back. Think about when you give out a smile, you usually get a smile back. In networking with others, when you give referrals you get referrals back, perhaps not from the same person but it does come back to you.
When you do refer someone, be sure that you are confident they will deliver or you will lose an element of trust. If you don’t know the quality of the work of the person you are referring someone to, be sure to tell your connection up front so that they can make up their own mind if they want to work with them or not. That way it won’t reflect on your integrity.
8. Sit with people you don’t know
If you are attending a sit down networking event with a colleague, email the organizers to arrange to seat you both at separate tables. For the most part they are happy to oblige. If you find yourself at a sit down event that is first come first serve, look to sit with people you have never met before. A big rookie mistake at any networking event is for people to sit next to people they know. This is a natural thing to want to do as we are most comfortable with people we know. However, you won’t make new contacts that way. Always sit with people you don’t know so that way you can strike up a conversation and make a new connection, unless of course you invited someone to an event for the first time. Then of course you would want to look out for them and take them under your wing.
9. Take notes
If you are one of those people who doesn’t have a fantastic memory, take the time after you meet someone to write a few notes on the back of their business card or in a notebook or smart phone. It helps to jog your memory when you contact them in the future. If this is not possible, make notes as soon as possible after an event while your memory is still fresh. Make some notes about what you talked about so you can pick up on the conversation when you contact them in the future.
On a final note
By working the room effectively at networking events, you are more likely to make meaningful contacts, generate leads and get referrals.
In A Nutshell
- Arrive early and meet other early birds
- Introduce yourself to the organizers
- Turn your phone off
- Treat others with respect and dignity
- Move on politely
- Collect business cards
- Connect your contacts and give referrals
- Sit with people you don’t know
- Take notes