No excuses! To network, it doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert or an extravert. It’s about preparing yourself with what you need to succeed.
Build a spreadsheet
To make sure you connect with who matters, you really need to do some research. I like to build a list beforehand of companies and speakers from the event website, and attendee list. I include who people are and what they are doing there.
There are a few types of people I research:
- People who are at the top of my list for who I’d like to have as customers
- People that are potentially doing something complimentary with my business
- People that I can learn from
Information that I include:
- Who they are
- Who they are associated with
- What they are talking about
- Why I might be interested in them: a potential customer, partner, or somebody I can learn from
Connect with them:
Either on Linkedin, another social media or if you have their email. Ask to set up a time to chat 1:1 with them.
Initiate a Conversation
At the event, do a walk around and take a look at people’s name tags. If you recognize them from your spreadsheet, you automatically have someone you can start a conversation with.
- Make yourself approachable
- If you see someone walking by the table, invite them over
- Wear something a little different – a conversation starter!
- if someone’s looking around and looking at you – smile at them!
- Approaching others: If you are looking to go up to somebody and start a conversation, just do it. Don’t be nervous – everyone is there to connect. If the person seems unapproachable it is probably because they are nervous too! Conversation starters:
- Find any commonality with them: their fun socks, the session you were both in, their drink
- Ask them what they think of the event or presenter
- Ask them what they are looking to get out of the session
MAKING MEANINGFUL CONNECTIONS
Once you’ve initiated the conversation, how do you make a connection? People want to do business with people they know are human too. What you are looking to do is build a relationship and give them a reason to remember you after the conference.
Find out what motivates and drives someone
Then you can find out how they like to do business and what they care about.
- PLEASE! Don’t talk AT people. Spend most of your time asking questions and encouraging storytelling.
- No one should ever walk into a networking event and expect to close a deal meeting someone at a networking event. People can smell it on you. If you make a real connection and a sell great! But don’t force it on the first meeting.
Find common ground: interests, values, personality
- Spend more time talking about them than about you and what you can do for them
- Don’t be afraid to ask personal questions. You’ll know if they don’t want to talk because they’ll give a short answer or move on.
Remembering names: it’s hard but it’s essential, it shows that you care about them
- Say it out loud at least twice to their face as you are talking to them
- Spell it out in your head
- Associate it with something, like you brother name, or a song you like (not something I do, but it works for other people)
GETTING OUT OF A CONVERSATION
First and foremost, people are there to network. Don’t be afraid to cut the conversation off. Even if you have made a meaningful connection you are still allowed to meet other people. If you are comfortable enough I always prefer to be direct.
Be Direct (Recommended)
You can successfully walk away from a conversation without making someone feel snubbed if you follow these four steps:
- Wow, it was awesome meeting you, NAME, (give a reason that’s personal)
- I’m excited to talk to you more about this
- and I have your contact info so I will reach out so we can do a follow up
- I need to keep mingling, so I will see you soon. (SMILE, shake their hand, and walk away)
- BONUS: If they seem shy you can offer that they walk around with you.
Or Be Indirect
I get it, sometimes you just don’t feel like cutting someone off. If you are stuck in this situation, here are some ways to move on from the conversation.
- Drink your drink and go get another one
- Go to the bathroom
- Bring a wingman have signals! (This is my favorite, I feel like a spy, or part of ocean’s 11) I have ones for checking in, I need to keep talking, come over and take over (it’s a good opportunity but it can be passed off to someone), escape pod (have your wingman say, “Can I come snag you for a second?”)
Do not wait too long to have some sort of touchpoint, you WILL forget what personal connection you had.
Everyone tries to write notes on business cards, but you fall flat after about 10. (And honestly, I have a box of business cards from New West Summit that I haven’t finished with connecting on LinkedIn).
Best Case Scenario:
You have Google Docs or a CRM app on your phone and you immediately take notes about the conversation. If it’s someone from your hit list, you have their contact info and all you need is the note.
We are working at SD6 to make this process better. But for right now, if you have a CRM and it has an app, take the time to download it and take notes after every meeting.
If you can only remember and write one thing down, make it the personal thing, because your odds of remembering it based off of just that are much higher than just making the note that they need your business.
These are my tips: make sure to share yours here so everyone can learn from each other before the conference.