For YEARS, I would forego the complimentary cocktails + 1 hour of
networking embarrassment that comes with professional networking events. To me, it was a recipe for my own disaster.
My outlook changed when I attended an event with someone, who like me, was not a natural at working a whole room of people but sure did seem like it. Learning a few of her subtle tricks, I learned that networking events were my greatest untapped resource of professional development. After all, where is the growth in hiding behind your desk all year long?!
Why forgetting to introduce yourself is the best thing that can happen…
Think back on some of your best first impressions – were you so engaged in the conversation that halfway through you realized you hadn’t actually introduced yourself? Did you feel an instant bond with someone or think that person must have been blessed with a crazy amount of charisma? In all honesty, they were probably just a little more prepared.
At a crowded networking event, asking someone a question can spark a more engaging conversation:
“Have you been to Denver before?” …
“That’s a fantastic bag, who made it?” …
“I saw you in the first seminar! What did you think about it?” …
“Have you been able to find a good spot for coffee here yet? I’m struggling this morning.” …
If you start a conversation with, “Hi, my name is…” you’ll be answering and asking the same questions with every single person at the event. Mix it up!
Start by listening to everything that isn’t said…
In “Power Cues,” by Nick Morgan, he explains how human interaction is driven by nonverbal cues – subtle sounds, signals, and movements – that all make up our impression of someone.
The next time you’re trying to connect with someone, very subtly mirror some of their movements.
I know you’re probably thinking, “Uh, won’t they notice?” No, actually. People are too focused on their train of thought to notice! If they put their hand up to their face, mimic that movement a few seconds later. If they cross their legs, try doing the same. After about 15 minutes, reverse it. Put your hand up to your face first and see if they follow. This is an easy, subtle way to see if someone is engaged with you and will take your recommendations.
The way to remember anyone from anywhere…
After wrapping up a conversation, ask for a business card (or if you’re comfortable with a social media contact, go for it!) and start your “data collection.” Almost immediately after you collect someone’s card, you’ve closed the loop on your contact and will struggle down the road to remember anything you talked about. This “closed loop phenomenon” is similar to when a waiter closes out the tab for a couple he just served. After the loop is closed, he won’t be able to recall what they had for dinner or why it mattered.
Did your new friend mention that they had a son just starting college? Or perhaps they mentioned they were running late to the event because they were working hard on their new website. Grab a pen and jot down a unique piece of data that you can mention down the road. “Last time we spoke, your son was just starting school. How’s he doing?” They’ll be super impressed you remembered something important to them, and you’ll have a much easier time navigating your next interaction.
Now that you’re armed with these networking tips and tricks…
It’s time to grow your network! Here are just a few of our favorite industry events coming up:
The PPAF Expo – Orlando, Florida
Tuesday, August 29 – Wednesday, August 30
Tee off at the golf tournament, learn valuable tips at the education sessions, and then end Tuesday networking with industry professionals! Wednesday kicks off with a keynote by Seth Barnett, Diversity Development & Engagement Manager at PPAI, on “Managing the Millennial Market.” Then, join all your new connections on the show floor to see the best new products in the industry!
SAGE Show – Irving, Texas
Wednesday, August 30 – Thursday, August 31
The two-day event kicks off with Education Day on Wednesday, August 30! With a new line-up of SAGE and PPAI education sessions, we’ll show you useful tips for gaining new business, effective marketing strategies, and new tools to improve your sales process. After a day full of education, you’re invited to join our welcome reception to mix and mingle with new and old friends! Thursday will start off with complimentary breakfast and a keynote speech before the show floor opens with the latest trends from over 250 suppliers!
I hope to see you there!