Network Your Way Around A Room
Part 1 and Part 2 (today) explain how to approach and network with strangers at conferences in a gracious, natural, nonthreatening way that will lead to natural, productive conversations. If you’re nervous about networking, memorize and execute the steps.
Everything gets easier with a plan. In Part 1 we made a Conference Plan. We also made an After-Conference Plan, because following up with contacts afterwards and building relationships with people after the conference is why we went to the conference in the first place. Right?
It’s the day before the conference. Let’s get ready and go.
Walk Into The Room
- Walk into the room. Take a moment to survey the room and the crowd. Take just a moment; don’t worry, you won’t look nervous, all good networkers look over the room when they enter. Bette Davis did it. If you feel extremely nervous, and you see someone you know, go join them. But remember, you are here to meet people you don’t know.
- Feeling shy? Go to the food table and hang out near the end or corner of the table. Eat casually, and when people approach, be ready to look up, mention the food, and mention something else about the conference. Ask them what they think of the food or the conference. Continue with open-ended questions.
Now Bump It Up a Notch
- When you’re ready, scan the room. If you see one of the 3 important people you want to meet, approach the person, if she’s in a group of three or more. If you don’t see her, choose a group of three people in conversation, and approach them. (You can walk up to a duo but chances are greater they’re having a private conversation. Choose a trio when you can.) Walk up, stand slightly to the side of one person where there’s a gap, and make eye contact with the person opposite you. Look pleased to be there, but don’t grin like a clown. Don’t look vacant. Look at the people in the group with intention; otherwise they won’t know you want to join the conversation.
- When there’s a slight lull in conversation, stick out your hand and say “Excuse me. I don’t believe we’ve met. My name is __” to someone in the group you don’t know. Be the first to do this; you’ll feel less awkward if you don’t wait. After all, they might be shy and will make you wait forever, in which case you’ll wilt and slink away. We don’t want that.
- After exchanging names, company names (please have an interesting two-sentence-long self-introduction ready, no longer), and possibly business cards, it’s polite to say “Please, go on with what you were discussing.” Wait patiently for a few rounds of conversation, and then say something brief and appropriate. Say something that invites comment. Ask your open-ended questions. Do the same if there’s a lull in conversation.
That’s It. You Did It.
That’s it. You’ve joined a group of strangers, been gracious, made contact, and contributed to the conversation. Pat yourself on the back.
How Do I Walk Away?
Walking away from your little group isn’t as hard as you think. But don’t rush off; you don’t want to look like you’re there just to collect business cards. But after you’ve contributed several rounds of conversation and you want to continue mingling, then, when there’s a slight lull in conversation, say, with a smile, “I’ve enjoyed meeting you and talking with you. I believe I’ll go on circulating a bit. I hope to run into you at breakfast.”
Put Your After-Conference Plan Into Action Right Away
The conference is over. You’re met some people and have a stack of business cards. Most importantly, you achieved your goal of meeting and speaking with 3 people who are important to you or your career. Take a bow.
Don’t Be In The 90%
Any idea how many people come home with a stack of business cards and their career never shows any sign that they were ever at the conference? In my experience, the number is 90%. Don’t be in that number. It’s time to put your After-Conference Plan into action.
The more quickly you swing into action on your After-Conference Plan, the more likely you are to actually make contact with your new contacts! And then the more likely you are to make the second contact with them in 3 weeks.
Be Helpful and Memorable
The very evening the conference is over is not too soon to send out your first emails (use the skeleton email you wrote in Part 1 of this post) saying “It was terrific meeting you”. Mention where you met and what you spoke about to make it easier to remember you. Make yourself even more memorable now by expanding on the conversation with a sentence or two, possibly adding a helpful link. If the recipient is one of the 3 important people you wanted to meet at the conference, do a very good job of being helpful.
Keep In Contact
In your Conference Plan, you blocked out time – only about 20 minutes – every 3 weeks for staying in touch. Check your calendar and see if you want to make any changes. As the days pass, make notes about industry news and links you want to email to each of the 3 important people. Always be helpful first; if you want to ask for help or advice, make sure you’ve been helpful for many, many weeks first.
That’s it. The 8 guaranteed steps to networking your way across a room and across a career!
Please click “Comment” and give us your opinion. Would these steps work for you? What is your most effective networking advice?
There’s bonus material (look for it this week) in the Part 3 of this two-part series (email me directly if you catch the humor…firstname.lastname@example.org). Enjoy the bonus material and please comment on this post !