5 Ways to be Effective at a Networking Event

Networking events sometimes feel like speed dating. Talk to as many people as you can until you find a mutually beneficial connection. It can be less than comfortable.

These events are created with the best of intentions, but trying to create organic conversation in a manufactured setting can be difficult.

The thought of networking will cause you to reach for a stack of business cards or hide in the coat closet depending upon your personality. Rather then shuffling through your forced mental script of rehearsed questions, consider the following 5 ways to be effective at your next networking event.

Be memorable

We don’t mean wearing a flashy tie. Be the man or woman who is remembered by what you say.

We’re all used to the standard, “So, what do you do?” line of questioning. Simply being prepared for these standard questions can leave an impression.

Come up with an honest answer that is engaging and makes the other person want to know more.

Donald Miller, best selling author and CEO of StoryBrand, gives the following example of a conversation between two people at networking event.

Other person: “So, what do you do?”

You: “You know how hard it is to make a healthy dinner every weeknight with all the stuff your kids have going on? Well, our company delivers homemade frozen dinners that are actually affordable, so parents can relax and enjoy time with their families at night.”

As Miller explains, this method works because you’re telling a mini-story with this type of answer. This also positions you as the person who can solve a specific problem. If the other person can’t work with you at the present time, they’ll be able to file your name away in their mental Rolodex as the person with a specific solution.

Be genuine

Vanessa Van Edwards, a human behavioral expert, and author of Captivate, tries to provide a “me-too!” moment for the other person in every conversation. “It makes us feel accepted. It makes us feel heard. And most importantly, it makes us feel calm,” she explains.

Genuinely showing you care goes a long way. During most of these events, you’re surrounded by people searching for what they can get out of the other person. But entering a conversation with the desire to solve their needs often results in mutual benefit. Maybe you’ll get their business or maybe you’ll just get the blessing of being able to help someone.

Show the other person you care by asking questions you actually want to know the answer to. Rather than the standard, “What do you do?” or “What brought you here tonight?” try the following:

What are you most excited about with your job right now?

What are you most excited about with your industry right now?

What’s the biggest challenge you’re currently facing?

How did you end up in your line of work?

What are you looking forward to this week?

Know where to stand

It may sound trivial, but the location you choose to stand in a room can make all the difference. Rather than backing yourself up into a corner, choose strategic high-traffic locations within the room.

More specifically, stand where people are walking away from – against the flow. Find a place where there is a natural traffic flow such as a few feet from the bar or hors d'oeuvres table. This will allow you to make eye contact and be in position to naturally engage other attendees.

Check your body language

In a recent interview, Van Edwards explained that you want to maintain open body posture. This shows the other person you are open to conversation and non-threatening.

A simple way to demonstrate open body posture is to show your hands. Van Edwards says this is a primal survival mechanism showing that we are not carrying a weapon. Conversational stature often causes us to place our hands in our pockets or fold our arms. Subconsciously this communicates that we are closed off or even untrustworthy.

It can be hard to avoid folding your arms as this can be a natural tendency for many. However, if you need to, hold a glass or folder to keep yourself from placing your hands in your pockets.

Have a plan of action

You can usually decide early on in the conversation whether you will want to stay connected with the person you’ve been speaking with. If you do, you’ll want to have a practical way to follow up. But if you decide that you won’t want to stay connected, you need to have a natural exit strategy.

If you desire to stay in contact, provide them with your business card and tell them you’ll be following up with them. Depending upon the conversation, you may be able to offer to email them a helpful resource.

However, if you realize you won’t want to stay connected beyond the conversation, you need to have a way to remove yourself from the conversation. Simply asking to be excused in order to attend to needed business before the next session can be a honest, natural method. You can also watch for a natural break in the conversation and cordially thank them for their time and wish them the best of luck with the remainder of the year. While you want to show genuine interest in the other person, you need to value your own time as well.

Summary

Depending upon the length of the event or conference, you may have several conversations, but you’ll only have one or two memorable connections. Once the event is over focus on the conversation that you see providing the most direct benefit.

Today, it’s easy to make connections, but developing relationships can be difficult. Developing these relationships requires you analyze yourself and be proactive. While searching for connections, you need to be the person someone wants to network with. Keep these five tips in mind to make the most of the next networking event you attend.

Resources:

http://buildingastorybrand.com/episode-96/

http://buildingastorybrand.com/network-without-being-annoying/

Networking With Purpose

July 12, 2016

By John Yurkschatt, Director, IT Services Practice

In today’s challenging job market, it’s not just about who you know but how you get to know them.  If NOT done correctly, networking is a waste of your time. If your approach is to seek out people to tell them about ME, ME, ME, you’ll walk away from every networking event/opportunity disappointed.

The right way to network is to do it with “purpose”.  That means think beyond “What’s in it for me?”  Instead, think “How can I help you?”

True networking is all about connecting, communicating and building a relationship.  It’s about enjoying your conversation with others and actively listening in order to figure out what they need and how you can connect them with the right people without designs for personal gain.

For many of you, this revelation is eye opening.  It’s probably contrary to what you’ve been doing.  If so, the following 5 tips on how to network successfully are especially meant for you:

1) Start networking before you’re in a pinch.  Desperation can be smelled from across the room. Don’t be that person with panic in your eyes and only out for yourself. Handing out resumes at an event will make people run away from you instead of towards you. Start networking when you don’t have an ulterior motive.  Get to know people and about what’s important to them and start building a relationship.

2) Never dismiss anyone as being unimportant. Everyone has value and you’ll discover that fact if you keep your mind open and don’t judge people based on titles.   Remember everyone has connections therefore, everyone is important.

3) Ask for an attendee list. Prior to attending each event, ask the organizer for a list of attendees. You can do some research on the people you want to meet. Check out their LinkedIn profiles and Google their names to gather more information.

4) Fish in the right pond. Unfortunately many of you are attending every event you can. You want to meet anybody and everybody. Slow-down. You need to be more focused. For example, if you’re looking for a big fish, i.e. a key contact with a large company because you want to work for a large company, then you must attend the right event. You have to fish where the big fish are.

5) Figure out how you can be useful. Networking is not just one sided. It’s not asking for favors. It’s about building relationships.  It’s about a two way street and that means asking others how you can be of service to them. Be sincere and generous. Give them your business card and let them know they can call you anytime.

Please share how you network with purpose by posting a comment in the box below.