5 Big Ideas For Your Next (Networking) Event

With the holidays right around the corner, it’s likely you’ll get a chance to tell someone “what you do for a living.” It’s in the top three questions you’ll get asked when you DO introduce yourself to someone. At a party, while traveling, or even while waiting in line to get a coffee before work in the morning, you’re bound to hear these three:

What’s your name?
Where do you work?
What do you do?

So, what’s the game plan? ‘Tis the season to be merry (and talkative!) and the chances are high you’ll find yourself in more than one opportunity to broker a new relationship; if you’re a business owner, you may even gain a new client or vendor if you manage the conversation right.

Here are 5 things to consider as you’re getting ready to network. Whether at a formal event, or in your day-to-day experience, pick one of these each day and see what happens!

1. Look for an opportunity to meet someone. There are subtle things you can do to increase the chance of starting a conversation. At a conference, add something to your name tag (always bring a Sharpie pen!). While you’re at a networking event, carry with you the book you’ve been reading this week. Make it easy for someone to say, “Tell me about that.”
2. Be more interested in the person you’re talking to. Let’s say you DO get someone’s attention. You’ve started the conversation, you’re getting in to the conversation, and you hear yourself talking. Stop. Immediately! Ask them to tell you something about a book they’re reading, a trip they recently took, something about their business they recently discovered. People love to talk about themselves; just get them to do it!
3. If you’re going to a MeetUp or some other event you register for, look up fellow participants. If you’re attending a conference, look up the presenters. Follow them on Twitter, do a Google search for their recent articles or go to YouTube and watch some of their videos. Let the first time you meet them be the second time you’ve learned from them.
4. Be a fan! Ok, this walks a line of “being spooky” (it IS almost Halloween!), but played right this can help you out a lot. If you have time to follow them on Twitter (see idea #3) or read their book, consider retweeting something they write, or even posting a book review on Amazon.com (or your blog). People are SO busy out there doing their thing, that when they see you promoting them, talking about them or sharing their stuff, it makes it a little “easier” for them to pause when you meet.
5. ABR – Always Be Ready. While sitting here at the business incubator where I serve as a business advisor over the past 45 minutes, I’ve heard two conversations with a similar outcome:

New connection: “Do you have a card or something I can take with me?”
Business owner: “We’re working on getting those printed. Let me write down my email address.”

Of course it’s a great idea to write something down. Even better, spend the next 2-4 weeks listening, really listening, to what the people you meet ask you for. Over the past few months, after listening to the people I’ve met, I’ve made:

• New business cards
• New Web site landing pages
• A new “postcard series” (postcards of FAQs and answers to hand out or mail)
• A “recorded message” (people call in and listen to about our productivity workshops)

When it comes time to meet someone, be ready – and willing – to share a conversation that may take things further. It’s possible that the next person you meet could offer you insight or an opportunity. Experiment with just one of the five ideas from this article, and (as always) let us know what happens in the comments below!

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