Ever wonder how to work a networking event… Like you OWN the place?
It’s hands down the highest return on your marketing efforts (W.O.M.) – word of mouth business. The main way this works at its extreme peak is with the support of networking events. There really is no substitute for being there in person – attending professional meetings, seminars and receptions, non-profit events, community venues, direct referral meetings, chamber functions and more. For those times when you are able to attend an event, knowing how to ‘work the room’ can make the difference between a boring waste of time, and an exhilarating event that creates business or at the very least expands your circle of connections.
Now, there are several things that can make this happen for you as for most people walking into a room full of strangers can be daunting. Introverts or extroverts teaming up with someone is always the best course but even if you go it alone one key is to have a goal. Before you set foot at your networking event, think about what you want to accomplish. This will do several things for you; keeps you from wandering around aimlessly, changes your demeanor when you have a purpose, helps with startup conversations… for example if your goal is to meet 2-3 professionals in the hospitality industry you can open conversations up like, “Does anyone know if there are any hotels in the area remodeling?’ If yes, then follow up by do you know who the manager there is & can you introduce me?
Goals can be very helpful with your mindset at events; I like to always set the goal to meet three people who I don’t know. Sometimes I turn it into a game by partnering up with others and challenging them to get 5 business cards by the end of the event along with learning something personal, professional & fun about each person the cards belong to.
Use your resources before an event. If you know the event organizer or any key professionals responsible for part of the event, ask for an introduction to connections they know there that they would recommend you meeting. Having a warm hand off will make first connections so much easier, plus it’s a time saver.
Be in touch with your body language at all times. Crossing your arms, looking at the floor, tilting your frame away from the group or clenching objects in front of you gives the impression you aren’t wanting to be approached. Walk in open stance and eyes meeting any other eyes that will make contact with you and SMILE!
Having prepared for the event with ice breaker questions (not about the weather unless you just rode in on a tornado) will help you fill conversation voids. Topics such as current community happenings, asking why they are attending the event, if they are attending any other events coming up, commenting on the venue, program or speaker are all great ways to keep the conversation interesting.
BE POSITIVE... can’t say it enough, no matter the event it is not designed for venting. No one views a person as a potentially valuable asset if they are venting their issues and woes on the world.
Be well mannered – mind your handshake… go full in firm but not bone crusher. Listening is the most valuable skill power net-workers have and use more than trying to monopolize the conversations. Laughter is a beautiful sound unless you’re a harpy and have no control over the pitch, length or volume of your laugh. Be respectful of the time you spend when working the room, strike up a great conversation, make a valuable connection and leave them wanting more of you instead of wondering if they’ll have you following them home. It’s not necessary to try and one-up the last story, letting others share the spotlight instead of trying to control it will get you invited to more events.
Finally be REAL… it is what will make the initial connection and what will keep them interested in a follow up meeting. Be in the moment, share time by really listening, observe body language so you can pull a hail Mary if needed, be prepared to share your story but crafty enough to realize when others want to speak and above all else remember; Everyone else that is there for the most part are there for the same reason as you… to meet others, grow their connections and hopefully gain new clients. (Don’t forget your follow up!)
For these techniques and more – ask us about our team and individual training! Happy Networking~