In an earlier post, I spoke about the importance of being prepared before attending a networking event.
I’m going to presume that your preparation included knowing where to go. The last thing you want is to arrive flustered because you’re late and /or you couldn’t find the venue.
Hopefully, someone will be on hand to welcome you and point you in the right direction.
If you’re a novice netwoker it’s best to arrive early before everyone’s put themselves into groups because it will make it easier for you to start connecting with people.
When you arrive “in the room”, take a moment to yourself. Even if you think all eyes are on you, people are more concerned about themselves, so stand back and do what I call an environmental scan of the room.
Is this what you expected? I say this because I once remember someone telling me about the time he marched into a room expecting 50 people and found 200. For a moment he was thrown, so he went out, took a moment to compose himself before returning to the room. A simple, but useful technique.
On another occasion, I recall someone arriving rather more casually dressed than everyone else in the room. He couldn’t change into a suit, but I noticed he left the room and returned with his shirt sleeves down, an extra button done up on his shirt and with an altogether more “business like” demenour.
Look out for where are people standing. Is someone on their own? Where are the groups? Are there groups where people don’t appear to having an in-depth conversation – these will be easier to break into than those having an intense discussion in corners.
Where’s the food and drink? That’s where people congregate.
Take a look at the Delegate List. Are there people you know attending? Are there people you’d like to meet on the list? Ask the event host(s) to introduce you either to a named person (“I see so-and-so is on the list, can you introduce me?”) or types of people (I’m hoping to meet people who work in XXXX / for XXX, can you introduce me?”).
Start moving. If you can’t find anyone to help, move around the room slowly, read name badges as you go. Smile! If someone looks approachable, you can always start a conversation. Walk up to them, offer your hand and introduce yourself: “Hi, I’m Firstname”. You can follow this with one of your prepared “openers” or with something else that will feed the conversation.
When you notice someone who’s on their own, invite them to join the group: “Hi, I’m Firstname, we’re just talking about XXX, do join us.”
Once you’ve established someone else in the “group” you can consider moving on: “It’s been great talking to you, but I see So-and-So’s name on the list, so I’m going to see if I can find her.”
Introduce yourself CLEARLY – we all know our own names and tend to say them quickly. I find introducing myself: “I’m Firstname (pause) Firstname Surname.” gives people time to hear and absorb my name.
Imagine yourself being the HOST – welcome people, ask them if there’s someone particular they’d like to meet. If you know that person, do the introduction or say something like “If I come across her, I’ll make sure to introduce you.”
Remember your GOALS – they’ll help you to keep motivated, moving and mindful.
Keep MOVING – avoid sitting down, you’re literally a sitting target and can easily get trapped. You can much more easily move out of conversations when you’re on your feet.
Having said that, moving OUT of conversations is much harder than moving IN …. but that’s for another time!