Working a Room; Getting the Most Out of a Networking Event
One of my favorite phrases is “Your net-worth is your network”. Whether you are in sales or not, one of the most valuable things a professional can do is network. Building relationships with other professionals helps you grow and keeps you on the cutting edge of changes in business, both in your industry and others.
I understand that networking does not come as easy to others as it does for me, so I have compiled a list of tips anyone can use when they go to their next happy hour or industry convention.
Get there early. You want to see who comes in and who to talk to, but you also want to get familiar with the venue. Personally, I avoid lingering by the bar or an entrance/exit because it is a high-traffic area and it’s difficult to maintain a conversation without getting interrupted. Conversely, I prefer to be in the middle of room instead of on the perimeter or a corner because it is higher traffic and you will get better coverage. The take-away to this is, get your drink and do a lap. You will land where you are meant to land.
Recognize someone who does what you do and work around him or her. When you have a chance to speak mention something that is different about you or what you specialize in. Do NOT be a generalist. Leverage your niche to stand-out and get a meeting. Once you have their attention, then feel free to elaborate on what you do.
Take the temperature of the room and work within that temperature. Meaning suit and tie versus casual. Humor or serious. Coffee versus cocktail.
Notice body language such as open vs. closed stance, eye contact, smile, etc. If 3 people are talking, but two are engaged over something specific excuse yourself or politely walk away. Trust me—they will appreciate it and you are doing yourself a favor.
Don’t find a friend and ignore the rest. If you see a familiar face go say hello to them, but keep the conversation short (less than 10 minutes) and move on. The same goes for someone you just met. Unless you are getting a deal done on the spot, do not spend all your time with one person.
Go alone! This means no partner, no colleague, and no significant other. You will spend the entire time talking to them, introducing them, and showing them around. Conversations with other professionals will be limited, in both content and time.
Introduce others and engage others in conversation even if you just met them. Call them by name twice to re-enforce the fact you know who they are and for the rest of the group. It adds a personal element to the situation.
Bring enough business cards! There is nothing worse than running out of cards in the middle of an event. Only give yours out if asked or have a meaningful conversation. When you’re given a card, look at it and read it so you further connect with that person. Have a pen with you to write a note or something memorable on the back of the card so that you remember details when you follow-up with them. These cards go in my right front pocket and receive a follow up email or phone call the next day. If someone is handing me their card before I even get their name or the conversation is puts me to sleep, I politely accept their card and put it my left front pocket. These go in the garbage.
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to consistently network, especially for young professionals trying to make a name for themselves. Networking is responsible for the majority of my annual revenue, has helped me build a rolodex for any situation, and multiple job opportunities- just to name a few. However, perhaps the most overlooked benefit of networking is one’s access to the knowledge of other professionals and how you can utilize this to deepen and strengthen your relationship with your own clients’.