Monday, July 30, 2012

Networking for Nice People

I recently attended an event where the organizers and speakers kept repeating how important it was for us in the audience to mingle at the afternoon mixer. Once it came time to actually socialize, I noticed that most of those "mixing" seemed to know each other already, and kept to themselves -- somewhat. Not being one to come home without meeting at least a few people, I circled around the reception area a few times, enjoyed an appetizer or two (or three, but who's counting), and ended up chatting with a very nice woman with whom I shared writing and marketing tips. So, at least I met one new person, I thought to myself.

Back home, I felt mad at myself that I hadn't tried harder. But then upon further reflection, I didn't think it should have been so hard. I realized that there were certain tips and tricks for successful networking, both in the verbal and nonverbal communication side of things, that I had learned over the years. I needed to remind myself of them. Here are a few of the top ones:

1. Make Your Badge Legible

If you are writing in your name and company, make it large enough to be readible, and make sure it's eye level so others can easily see it.

2. Look for Those Standing or Sitting Alone

Most people don't attend an event just to sit by themselves, and those who attend on their own are typically more open to meeting people then tose in groups. Approach them and start by introducing yourself and offering a handshake.

3. Be Curious About Others

It may sound cheesy, but asking people about what they do, and their hobbies and interests, is a great icebreaker, and gets people talking about themselves. Don't just pretend to be interested, really listen to people. Give them a chance to ask about you after that, only if they bring it up.

4. Bond over Technology

We may all be a bit addicted to technology, but it can work to bring us closer together if we use it right. Maybe someone next to you is using a camera you're thinking about buying, or you find yourself intrigued by their smartphone or ipad. Tech is a great bridge builder, and I find others enjoy giving advice and sharing their "tech experiences."

5. Get In Line for Something

At events you typically have to wait in line for something, whether it's registration, food, beverages, etc. No one enjoys waiting in line, but the time goes faster when there is someone to talk with. Smile at the person waiting next to you, and chances are you'll strike up a conversation.

6. Look for Event Organizers

Event staff are often looking to get feedback from attendees, so scope them out and compliment them if you feel they did a great job. A few years ago, I attended the Dice Next Tech Event, and ended up having a great chat with their marketing team. Since it was their first event, they wanted feedback from attendees, and they were a great group of people to hang with.

7. Get Involved in your Host's Communications

Volunteering to be interviewed, or providing a quote or testimonial about a company, is a great way to get to know their staff. Become a part of their communications and storytelling, and they will not only appreciate you, but will come to regard you as one of their "brand ambassadors," leading to more events where you can meet more cool people!

8. Every Event Is Different

Not every event is optimal for networking. Some are packed with educational programs, leaving little time to meet new people. Assess each event on its own merit, and take advantage of program-related activities such as meals or breakout sessions, to connect with others. Sometimes, you might find yourself running into the same person throughout the day -- and there might be a great reason! Don't waste an opportunity, and you'll go home feeling that you've had a more balanced experience.


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