Networking Tips: How to Work a Room

Networking Tips: How to Work a Room
I was recently asked to give a keynote presentation to give tips on how young professionals can best network for the Connect With St Louis Leadership Series.  Here are a few of my thoughts that I shared along with some expanded notes from my preparation.  If you’d like to watch a video of the presentation along with the panel discussion, which included Ann Althoff, HOK and Beth McClure, St Louis Science Center, feel free to watch the videos on go! TV.  These are just a few things to keep in mind, make sure to leave comments with some of your best tips.
  • Picking the right events
    • You have got to go to the events that have the type of people you are looking for…which means the first thing you’ve got to do is identify exactly who it is you are wanting to meet, and what you want to accomplish by networking.  What types of relationships are you looking for?
    • Once you identify who you are looking for, you have a couple of options on identifying where to go:
      • Ask a few people in your target audience, where they go
      • Talk with people who are “well connected” for their opinion
      • Go to www.ConnectWithStLouis.com
      • Trial and error
    • Do some research on all of the organizations people recommend and narrow it down to a list of 5 potential prospects…and here is the key, go to their next event.  You can do all the research in the world, but until you actually go, I don’t care how good they sound on their website, you just don’t know.
  • Networking at Events
    • Get there right at the start time; the people organizing won’t be busy yet and it’s easier to talk to people
    • When you are talking to the organizers, make sure you let them know how you heard about the event and why you are there.
    • Find one person to talk to in a group & make your way around
    • Strike up conversations at the bar
    • DO NOT sit around and talk to the person you came with, as a matter of fact, don’t go with anyone you know, it will be too easy to fall back on
    • Everyone is there to network and meet people, so don’t be bashful
    • Hold drink in the left hand and your nametag on the right side
    • Have business cards in an accessible pocket—and bring more than enough–DO NOT RUN OUT OF BUSINESS CARDS
    • Find a reason to exchange cards; don’t force your card on anyone.  Find a reason for them to ask for your card.
    • Ask lots of questions to steer the conversation in their direction; once they are “talked out” about themselves, they will be much more receptive
    • Tailor your “elevator pitch” towards what they do and their interests
    • As soon as someone walks up, introduce them to the whole group and give a brief summary of what each person does
    • Maintain eye contact but don’t stare..and definitely do not room-scan
    • Make the person you are talking to feel as if they are the most important person in the room
    • Once the event picks up, people will typically circle up in conversation, which will make it more difficult. I refer to these as the Circles of Death.
    • This is when the fact you were there early to meet people, will be extremely helpful.
    • Take a trip around the room and/or to the bar and look for the people you met, especially the organizers, and use them as the entrance into a group.
    • Don’t overstay your welcome in a conversation. Make sure you provide insightful comments to the conversation and be engaging whey they ask you questions, but make sure to excuse yourself if the convo turns in a direction that is an “inside one”.
    • Networking is not easy.  There may be times when you need to run into the bathroom, give yourself a little pep talk in the mirror, and go back out there…just try not to be too loud with your pep talk, you might scare people.
    • Repeat the circle and scan the groups. If you don’t see more new entry spots, go back to the few people you met and say it was nice meeting them but you’ve got to run.
    • Don’t be afraid to leave early, especially if you’ve met 3 or 4 really good people. Remember you are in it for the long haul and each event you go to, you’ll see more people you know and therefore have more entry points.
  • It’s all about the follow through…
    • Doors are opened at networking events, but the deal is sealed with follow through
    • You have 2 maybe 3 days for a second touchpoint, otherwise you may have never went and you should have saved that $4 you spent on a beer.
    • Opportunity to impress: write and send hand written thank you notes saying how nice it was to meet them and reference something from your conversation.
    • If it is someone you’d like to actually have a follow up meeting with, send them an email 2-3 days after the note.
    • Do not fall into the trap of the Law of Diminishing Intent.
    • Use your age an asset to over impress. When you systematically follow up in this manner, you will impress those from all generations.
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