Hello! Blog post three of five on networking. Time to get out and meet some people!
But before you do, heed these warnings. Yesterday, I posted about ten tips on networking. Today, I’m adding a few more tips of what not to do, plus one big admonition about how to convert an event sponsored by, hosted by and paid for by someone else…into your own shindig. Really.
Don’t be anonymous. Wear your name tag prominently on your right-hand breast pocket, which is the location a person’s eyes naturally fall when shaking your had. Additionally, wearing a company logo lapel pin reinforces your company’s brand image. Visual cues like these help people learn your name and company faster—building your identity in the market faster.
Don’t be caught with your hands full. Food and beverages at networking events can make it hard for you to shake hands and exchange business cards. Juggle only one at a time (either a glass or a cocktail plate) to leave your right hand free for shaking and giving out business cards.
I always ditch my usual larger purse for a tiny cocktail purse with just the essentials that hooks over my left elbow. This leaves both of my hands free and my business cards at the ready—not in the depths of a voluminous purse.
Don’t be a barfly. Avoid congregating by the bar – usually the noisiest and most crowded place in the room, so it discourages conversation. However, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by a sea of people you don’t know, get in line at the bar and strike up a conversation with the person next to you.
You can also use food as a way of facilitating interaction; if you’re speaking with someone with whom you’d like to have a lengthier discussion, ask them to join you to get a bite from the buffet. If you want to introduce yourself, consider getting a small plate of food and approaching a small group or cocktail table, and ask if you can join them.
Don’t get overloaded. Many events have sponsors who host booths and give away materials and prizes. Avoid picking up any literature or bulky items until the end of the event, to keep your hands free for networking. If you win a prize, ask the person operating the booth if you can pick it up at the end. If you must have materials, take a trip to the cloakroom or parking lot to drop off these things and keep your hands free.
Whew. I’ve exhausted my don’ts, so now let’s talk about dos. A key opportunity at networking events is showing up as more of a host than an attendee. It’s a subtle difference that builds your identity within your industry or the group of professional attending a given event.
My first rule for a host is to dress impeccably, ensuring your name tag is perfect and visible (I’m astounded by the number of women who let long hair cover their up, or by people who hang a nametag at waist-level, so that I have to stoop to read it.)
Next, arrive early, so you can be the person greeting and welcoming people as they come in. I always schedule the full evening to devote to the networking event to make the most of this opportunity. Position yourself just past the registration table to welcome people—not at the front door, where they know what to do (go inside and register), but exactly at the point where they think, Now what?
If your event involves seating (and in my opinion, few great networking events do), choose a seat near people you want to meet, reserve that space with a jacket or papers, then head back to the open area for networking to get the most out of mingling time. Consider asking people who are admittedly new to a given event if they’d like to join your table. (Again, your subtly hosting here, not just attending.)
As the networking event wraps up, position yourself near the door and say goodbye as people leave. You’re reinforcing your presence and leaving them with one of the last memories they’ll have of this event, which we also know is likely to last longer.
No matter what, use your instincts to get a read on the nuances of the event. By instructing my colleagues to do some of the techniques above, especially greetings and farewells, we got a ton of mileage out of the event an many comments back about our exceptional visibility.
We weren’t the only business sponsoring the event (in fact, there were six others), but in the eyes of 700 attendees, were owned the night.
At your next networking event, how will you do it?