Some people have an innate ability to walk into a room full of strangers and start connecting and uncovering business contacts galore. They seem to glide through the room, smiling, freely introducing themselves, while holding conversation. These people know how to read a room and individuals naturally. Then, there are people who move through events quickly, collecting an astounding number of business cards while shaking hand after hand. The difference between the two personalities couldn’t be more stark. One is making new contacts, the other is doing little more than trying to bag new clients. It’s obvious which one will benefit and which one won’t.
The purpose of networking events is to do just that: meet new people and have conversations. It’s how you go about it that makes all the difference. Connecting with people is an art form, and, is learned over time. Before there’s any real connection, though, you’ve got to be prepared to meet new people.
Network Event Do’s and Don’ts
There’s a huge difference between meeting new people and connecting with them. Meeting a group of new people is even more of a challenge than meeting a single person or a very small group. Attending a networking event is something that stirs excitement and anxiety. These events tend to be noisy, where it’s not easy to hold a conversation. What’s more, you’re expected to participate and interact with several people.
We network because we don’t work and live in a silo. Due to human nature, we tend to trust doing business with people we know or who are referred to us. People often think of the need to network whenever their jobs are in jeopardy, or whenever they’re in search of new business. —Career Builder
When you go to a networking event, you do so to open new doors. There won’t be time to establish a relationship and connect with others, but there will be plenty of opportunity to introduce yourself and hold brief, casual conversations. To accomplish this simple, yet challenging feat, you ought to know the do’s and don’ts of event networking.
Network Event Do’s
- Go prepared. You ought to have a brief list of topics to discuss and/or experiences to share. It’s okay to go over these out loud and practice introducing yourself. Just don’t practice too much, or, it will sound rehearsed and artificial.
- Keep one hand free at all times. Keep your dominant hand free of snacks, drinks, and other objects. You’ll be able to freely shake hands without having an awkward moment to find a place to temporarily set something down.
- Know who to approach. Just because someone is standing alone doesn’t mean you ought to rush over to approach. Take a moment to read his or her face and body language. When you do make eye contact, confidently approach and introduce yourself.
- Look for opportunities to offer help. One of the most powerful and likable gestures is to ask questions and offer your assistance. Only offer to help when it’s realistic and be sure to follow-up. Don’t make the mistake of over-promising or over-extending.
Network Event Don’ts
Believe collecting business cards is a measure of success. Remember, the purpose of attending these events is to meet people — not just to collect business cards. If that’s all you accomplish, the whole exercise is for naught.
Be on the lookout for someone else while speaking with another. If you do have the misfortune of getting into a boring conversation, find a gracious and courteous way to excuse yourself. What you should avoid is awkwardly scanning the room for someone else to speak with to break away.
Try to impress others with jargon or facts. Using big words, insider jargon, or trying to impress with a barrage of facts is a turn off. It’s pretentious and tells others you lack self confidence. What’s more, it keeps you from having a genuine conversation.
Speak over or interrupt others. This sounds obvious, but, it’s something that can be unintentional when you’re nervous. When you do approach someone else and introduce yourself, be courteous, ask polite questions, and listen.
Yes, the purpose of attending Network Events is ultimately to acquire new business. However, do not go to a Network Event if that is your initial purpose. Your priority for attending a Network Event is to develop Relationships which you can foster over time into a business opportunity with that connection or with someone they introduce to you. Minimize your agenda, and spend time listening and asking the other person questions about themselves and their business. Show them genuine interest and watch how your relationship moves to trust even during the Network Event.
Isn’t it more rewarding to leave a Network Event with 3 or 4 really good, meaningful connections where both of you developed a relationship and can follow up after the event to further explore opportunities together?
When is the last time you attended a Network Event and made some meaningful connections that turned into real business?