Ok, so some of us like networking, but really most of us would rather do something else. I’ve been networking as a part of my job for nearly 15 years. Here are ten of the networking tips I’ve discovered over that time:
1. Do not go with a buddy.
I know having a wingman is fun, but I’ve found them to be more of a crutch. If you go with a friend or colleague you are pretty likely to just hang with them instead of meeting new people (aka networking). Now you can’t always determine who will be where and you may not have a choice. In this case talk about it ahead of time and make a deal that for the first hour you will go in different directions.
2. Be a connector.
It is all about the new person you’re meeting. The more you give, the more you get. I never enter a conversation with someone new thinking about what they can do for me. It’s always what I can do for them. How can I help them? I would rather recommend or introduce them to a new relationship than the other way around. Know that you will not close business at a networking event. Just start the relationship.
3. Do your research.
This is especially relevant for industry events and conferences. Many conferences have online groups (Facebook, LinkedIn or their own specialty platforms) created so that attendees can connect before an event. You’ll be amazed how easy it is to find a dinner mate or someone to check out the sites with. If you follow tip number one you are going to need to find people to hang out with anyway.
4. Practice your pitches.
Seriously, practice them. But only enough that they don’t sound rehearsed. You should have three pitches or responses to questions in mind:
What do you do?
– I have a PR & digital firm called Veracity
What type of clients do you work with?
– Real estate & development, foundations & financial, health & hospitality, and a ton of events.
A third option.
BONUS: One of my new favorites, the Pixar pitch
5. Be engaged with the person you are talking with.
Have you ever been talking with someone and they are looking around the room? Presumably looking for someone better to talk with. Don’t be that guy. If you have discovered that your current conversation isn’t going anywhere, politely move on. Remember we are all equals.
6. It’s ok to talk about irrelevant things, but please don’t talk about the weather.
It is even better to have something topical to discuss. For example, ask and give your thoughts about the presentations you just saw at networking events following the conference.
7. Have an exit strategy (I am horrible at this one).
If you are using #2 (be a connector) the ideal strategy here is to introduce them to someone you think could benefit from the connection and then politely excuse yourself. It’s a win-win. You haven’t left them stranded alone at the party, you’ve connected them with someone else and now you’re free to move on.
8. Don’t drink too much.
Yeah, this kind of goes without saying, but come on. A networking event is not a Bachelor Party. Yes, there will be drinks and yes, “getting another drink” is a good way to get out of a conversation but make it a water or use a different exit strategy like grabbing a snack or taking a potty break.
9. Follow up.
There’s no point in connecting with someone and then failing to follow up. How you follow up is going to depend on how you do business. Ideally, this is the next day or at least within a week. You WILL NOT remember the little details of your conversation for very long, so you should make notes as soon as you can. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Send a LinkedIn invite. Be sure to reference the event and ideally the conversation you had.
- Make the connection you mentioned. Did you know someone they could benefit from being introduced to?
- Send them a blog post (ideally one from your company) relevant to what you talked about.
10. Have fun.
Not only does it suck to be somewhere you don’t want to be or do things you don’t want to be doing, it shows. No one wants to talk to the person complaining about everything or the grouch who obviously doesn’t want to be there. If you aren’t feeling it, maybe take a pass.
Okay, now you are ready to conquer the world or at least have a good time. If you are headed to the SEMpdx Rooftop Networking Party, here are some tips specifically for that event.