Networking tips for most of us
I had the pleasure of speaking at an industry event last week to an incredible group of technology executives. We spent some time talking about networking and the benefits of being prepared for holiday cocktail parties. One of the members told a story of receiving a job offer as a direct result of meeting someone at a holiday mixer. He’s a die hard fan of holiday parties!
Some of us spend a good deal of time meeting new people and seeking out opportunities to network as part of our business development efforts (like me). Most of the rest of us do not have an opportunity to hone our cocktail conversation skills – except in small doses. Now, as we’re heading into the holiday season, you’re unemployed or considering looking for a new position, and you understand the importance of building your personal/professional network. Where do you start?
Here are some easy to follow tips on how to make more of your holiday events:
- Do your homework. One of the benefits of our electronic society is that the attendee list is often accessible prior to the event. Spend some time reviewing the list in advance to identify people you would like to meet.
- Seek out the hosts. When attending a new group introduce yourself to the hosts (or board members) and ask them to introduce you to some key individuals to get you started.
- Arrive early. There are fewer people to navigate, less disruption, and it’s easier to get early introductions and start conversations.
- Introduce yourself in line. You’ll be in line at least twice (food and drink). You have a captive audience so introduce yourself to the person in front of you, and to the person behind you. “How do you know the hosts?” Have you been a member of this group for long?”
- Keep your introduction brief. Networking is about gathering information – be interesting, and more importantly, be interested.
- Make eye contact. Hold your attention on the person who is speaking. It’s rude to be in a conversation and look over the speaker’s shoulder for someone more interesting.
- Involve others in the conversation. Welcome newcomers to your huddle and create a crowd. Others will be drawn to your circle and you’ll meet more people.
- NEVER sell. Enough said – keep it conversational and don’t launch into your sales pitch. That’s for next week’s follow up.
- Carry plenty of cards and a pen. Jot down notes on your business cards on interesting facts, follow up requests and referrals. This list goes on…
- Need to exit a conversation gracefully? Ask for a card, offer your card, thank your new contact for taking the time to speak with you and wish them fun at the event.
- Work the edges of the room. These are the people who want to meet folks but are more nervous than you. Start engaging them and you’ll create energy around you.
Your network is one of the most valuable personal assets you have; it will help you in your career development, to find a job, to gain access to people you need and will secure endorsements for professional pursuits. Networks are a long-term investment in your personal capital – it takes 7 years to build a network, and only a year of neglect to lose it.
To your success!
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