Hot Tips for Attending Networking Functions
Everyday there are an unlimited number of networking breakfasts, lunches, dinners, seminars, workshops you can go to. Your budget probably determines how many of these you can afford to attend. More often than not, your positive mindset determines the outcomes in attending these functions.
Many people arrive at these events stressed, angry, basically not wanting to be there. They do themselves a disservice being there, because all they will attract is negative people like themselves. They are guaranteed to have a miserable time. So how can you maximise these opportunities?
Here are ten simple tips:
1. Decide why you want to attend.
What do you want to get out of this event? Is there a specific person you want to meet? Are you looking for a certain service provider? Or are you simply wanting to network with others in your industry, to share the highs and lows and keep up to date with what is happening in the marketplace? The clearer you are on why you are going, the more chance you will have of achieving your objective.
2. Decide on the logistics.
Do I have to block out time in my diary the hour before the function starts, to arrive on time? Will others you know be going? What is the dress code? Will you need to bring a change of clothes to work on the day?
3. Take plenty of business cards.
A business card that clearly states your name, what you do and your contact details is imperative for effective networking.
In Singapore, business cards are called 'name cards' and it is said your card represent a summary of you. Always treat other people's business cards with respect. Give your business card to the person you are meeting as part of your introduction, "Hi, I'm Robyn Henderson, I'm a global networking specialist." That's as much as you should say about yourself, unless they ask.
4. Have quality conversations
Have quality conversations rather than quantity. If there are fifty people at the event, don't expect to speak to all fifty. Be content with a quality conversation with five to seven people, who the next day will look at your card and remember you and what you spoke about. And more importantly remember you the next time they see you.
The best networkers are the best listeners. Anyone will speak to you for ten minutes if you are not speaking about yourself.
5. Take along a few ice-breakers
If you are a little nervous about what to talk about, listen to the latest news or talk back radio on your way to the event, so that you have a couple of interesting current topics to talk about. The first 60 seconds of any conversation with a complete stranger is the hardest. If you have a question prepared (e.g. what was the highlight of your day/weekend) the conversation will flow.
6. Don't fear pregnant pauses.
If there is a pause in the conversation, that's okay. Don't feel that you have to jump in and fill the gaps with trivia.
7. Avoid talking about work.
Eighty per cent of the population don't get recognition on the job and don't want to speak about their job at all.
Most people become very animated when they speak about their interests outside of work. Often, by revealing a little about yourself, people feel more comfortable sharing their experiences.
8. Always make eye contact.
Always make eye contact when you are speaking to someone. Looking over their shoulder for someone better to speak to is not only insulting but very foolish. You never know who knows the person you are speaking to.
Take the focus off you, listen more than you talk and you will be surprised at the results.
9. Act like the host.
When you sit down with a table of strangers, start the ball rolling by suggesting that you all introduce yourself-your name, the work you do, why you have come to the event. On an average table of ten, three people may think you are pushy (that's okay), while the other six people will be relieved that you had the initiative to make it happen.
10. Finally-have fun.
Great networkers have a great time. They know that by having quality conversations with the people they meet and keeping in touch, following up, doing the things they say they will do, they will build trust. The by product of trust is - constantly build a strong and effective network.
Remember, every best friend was a perfect stranger at one time!