For YEARS, I would forego the complimentary cocktails + 1 hour of
networking embarrassment from 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 with 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 for professional development. After all, where is the growth in hiding behind your desk all year long?!
“Hi, my name is (so and so). Nice to meet you!”The Introvert’s Safe Zone of Conversation
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?” …
“I saw you in the first seminar! What did you think about it?” …
“Have you found a good spot for coffee here yet? I’m struggling this morning.”
If you start a conversation with, “Hi, my name is…” you’ll likely be answering and asking the same questions with every single person at the event. Mix it up!
“I never really know what to say.”The Introvert’s Worst Nightmare
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 try 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 own 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.
But how do I put a name to a face? The way to remember anyone from anywhere.
After wrapping up a conversation, ask for a business card or scan their badge (or if you’re comfortable with adding a new social media contact, go for it!) and start your “data collection.” Almost immediately after you collect someone’s info, 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 likely 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 (or type) 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 that was 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 a few ways to get started:
1. Check Out Your Regional Promotional Products Association
Regional associations have regular networking events and tradeshows you can attend. Plus, the offer educational events and professional development – all ways you can practice your newfound networking skills!
2. Find a Local Professional Group
Professional groups in your area will not only provide resources to help you with your professional development, but they will expand your network. From making valuable connections to finding new business, joining will prove a worthwhile investment.
3. Join the Discussion in SAGE Community
SAGE Community is an industry-specific, collaborative social network where suppliers and distributors can share news, best practices, ask questions, and connect and engage with other industry professionals, all-in-one platform. You can learn more about SAGE Community here.
What are your favorite networking hacks? Do you have a go-to question you like to ask to get people talking? Let us know in the comments below!
This blog has been updated for accuracy since its original posting in June 2017.