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So your boss has asked you to go to an event and network … meet some new people … create some new business … make a new contact or two. You freeze. You hate meeting new people. What are you going to say? What if they ask you a question you can’t answer?
The main reason’s people hate to network is fear.
Someone once said, that with networking, “don’t go to get … go to give”. Give your service, give your advice, give your support, give one of your unique talents that only you will bring to the event. Ask yourself what can I give this person? Be your real self. You don’t have to be anyone else. There is only one you and you are the best at being you. Go for it.
The first question to ask yourself is to clarify why are you going?
Is it personal or business?
If it’s personal then you get to catch up with people you know or make some new friends.
If it’s business, what would you like to achieve? Collect business cards/make appointments/make crucial contacts?
Having clarified why you are going, make sure that you are stocked with enough business cards. So many times I have been at networking events and people have said I forgot my cards or I have ran out (and it’s only 10 minutes into the event)
Another preparation is arriving early. Get to the venue early and set yourself up where there is high traffic – the bar, or the coffee and tea table.
Have an elevator speech – an outline of who you are or what you do that you could give to someone in the time that you would spend in an “elevator”
There is a lot to be said about being focussed and brief. No-one wants to hear a 15 minute story. But it should be like a game of tennis – you have the ball and you give it to them, they receive it and give it back to you.
Have a firm handshake as opposed to the limp fish. Look people in the eyes. Put on your best smile. Sometimes it’s fake it till you make it with a smile but 10 seconds in and that genuine ray of sunshine will be coming off your face.
Enter the room
Be confident even at the registration table (keeping your eye out for someone you may know or someone on their own)
Enter the room knowing that you are there for a purpose – your purpose
Chit Cat & Small talk
But what will I say? Plenty!
If it’s a business event, you can ask questions like ‘Tell me about you company. Tell me about the role you play in the company. How long have you been there? What did you do before this company?
At some point in the conversation, make sure that you exchange business cards. Remember that people are at these events for the same reason you are, to network, so exchanging business cards is not out of place or strange. Maybe your card has a neat design or you may have been given an outrageous title … like mine. Mine says, Problem Solver! Because that’s what I do. I solve problems for businesses. It’s a great conversation starter.
Remember the person’s name
How are you with names. Most people are dreadful at remembering names. Here’s a key – say their name at least 3 times when you first are introduced. You could ask “Is that spelt normally?” “What’s the meaning of your name?” “That’s one of my favourite names. I have a friend called ….”
Identify someone who you might have in common. Introduce them to someone you know.
Don’t get stuck - move
From time to time you may become entrenched in a conversation that isn’t serving you towards your purpose of the event. Excuse yourself eg “I’ve just seen someone that I must catch up with.”
“It’s been good to meet you. I better pop around and meet a few more people before the end of the event.”
I am astounded at the amount of people who never make contact with me after I have given them my card. Directly after the event I will write on the back of the card, what the event was and any specific things I remember about them
3 keys to successful networking
Don’t think too much – just act
Careful not to overcomplicate things – what are you saying to yourself
Be supported – go with someone
You don’t have to do this alone.
Take a friend or a work colleague.
Even if you did register alone, you may know of someone else who is going and can meet them in the foyer prior to the event starting. Or look for people who are alone, either in the foyer or when you first enter the room.
Above all, have fun. Don’t give up your time and have it be a waste. Be outrageous. Be courageous. Be you.
About the Author:
Les Watson is a Trainer with S3. Les has diverse experience and exceptional knowledge across various industries, his friendly and outgoing personality instantly builds rapport and relationships with his clients and candidates alike.
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