A colleague of mine recently asked for some advice about networking, because she was going to attending a “networking event”. I gave her a few tips and when I chatted to her afterwards it appears that they worked OK, so I thought I would share them.
One thing I did not suggest and which in hindsight would have helped was to set yourself a goal, or a couple of goals. If it is a sizable group then getting to talk with 10 people might be possible … to get a “connection” with 2 of them would likely be a good outcome.
Here are some of the ideas to help get there:
1. Remember the point of the event … it is not a social event it is a networking event. So, you want to meet as many people as possible. It is important to be able to disengage from (a) those people who “cling” to you, (b) your colleagues (c) even those people you really “connect” with … in order to meet more people.
One idea … “Its been great talking with you you and I would really enjoy continuing our conversation, but I promised myself I would meet lots of people here tonight. Can I call you and plan to get together when we have more time to talk?”
2. People like to talk about themselves … get them talking. So go armed with questions that will get people talking.
Who do you work for?
How long have you been there?
Have you been in the field long?
Have you been a member of this organization long?
What do you think of this event?
Once the conversation goes then it becomes easier to keep going as you find topics of mutual interest.
Note: My colleague was surprised that she got everyone talking a lot, but no one asked her about herself! This is good … they will remember her as an interesting person because she showed interest in them! Mission accomplished.
3. Gauge people’s body language as you approach them to talk. You will know if they are going to be open to talking very quickly.
Tips. People on their own are the easiest to approach. Groups of 3 or more are the next easiest, and will often “allow” you into their conversation. Do not try to approach two people talking, it is very difficult to break into a two person conversation.
4. Do not hang out with people you know. In fact it is better to go to these events alone so that you are forced to mingle. Very often you will see two or three people from the same organization, or who know each other well, off together … which is not much value to them from a networking perspective.
5. Take lots of business cards, and give them out.
You might also be interested in my blog about the Power of Networking from May 2007.