The Art of Networking

Posted on October 8, 2013.

I’m heading out on vacation so you won’t be hearing from me until I get back in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, hope you enjoy my latest musing.

I’ve been to a fair amount of networking events lately and I’ve noticed a stark difference in how people seem to meet and greet. There’s a reason the word “work” is embedded in networking.  

It’s not easy to do it well, no matter how outgoing you may be. There was a time when I would have to attend three to five networking sessions a week.  So I speak from experience when I say these behaviors work best:

·      Introduce yourself. Even if you may have met this person 10 times, unless they are a friend or colleague, stick out your hand and say, “hi, I’m Cindy, great to see you again”. It saves the person the embarrassment of not remembering your name and, unless they are completely clueless, they’ll reciprocate by giving you their name, which I’m positive I would have forgotten. Looking at nametags is obvious and less personal.

·      Only sell yourself. There’s nothing that puts me off more than someone who tries to sell you their product or service at these events.  This should never be done unless you’re at a trade show and you can pick and choose whose booth you want to visit.  Of course it’s okay to tell people what you do and where you work, but don’t pitch them at a networking event. Get them to like you and want to meet with you again.

·      Ask questions. These kinds of events are a lot like blind dates-nothing puts you off more than your date spending the whole evening telling you all about their lives. This is someone you willnever see again. There’s zero difference when you’re networking. Find out as much as you can about the people you meet.  I don’t know who said it, but one truism is “interesting people are interested”. Ask a lot of questions without coming off like the third degree.

·      Have a plan. Before walking in cold, you should have some idea of who the participants will be. Go to the website and see who the sponsors and members are and make a list of targets. They may not be there, but it’s likely someone from that company will be and you can, at least, introduce yourself and your company (remember- no selling).

·      Follow up.  I’m not sure anything impresses me more than someone who takes my business card at an event and actually follows up with an email. It impresses me because it’s almost never done. And yet, this is when you can start building a relationship that hopefully leads to a sale.

Not everyone that attends these events is a salesperson. You have industry experts, business owners, speakers, etc. But even if you’re not selling something, you can expand your relationships and network and that’s never a bad thing.