Networking. You know, when two strangers talk to each other without saying what they really want.
How do you survive that tricky 10-minute interaction? What do you say? How do you unearth that golden nugget of information from all the formal fluff?
Below are five networking skills to help you survive your next event.
1. Look receptive
Once upon a time you’d stand in the coffee line and strike up a conversation with a complete stranger.
“You’re from Crawford? My cousin Rita is from Crawford!”
And that happened because you were available. Today, everyone has their head down as if some invisible string is pulling their faces into their phones.
Service alert: nobody will talk to you if you look busy. So keep the phone in your pocket. Look approachable by smiling. Uncross your arms.
Your refreshing disposition will make you a magnet.
2. Read badges, not minds
Networking at conferences has an enormous advantage: you already know everybody’s name. Huh? It’s right there hanging from their necks. Use that information.
As Dale Carnegie said:
When presenting yourself, go straight for the heartstring by saying that name when addressing your conversation partner. The connection will be instant.
3. Make a game out of it
Often the toughest part about networking is choosing who to talk to. So many people, so many possibilities. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who’s weird? There’s no way to know until you start talking.
How? By gamifying the process.
For instance, do a round through the room where you only approach people wearing something red. Or maybe you focus on people with ponytails, every third person, or people who make you think of people you already know.
The point is just to start meeting people. Works great at cocktail parties too.
4. Be helpful
Now that you’re talking, what do you say? Of course, you’ll naturally gravitate towards the fundamental “Where are you from? Why are you here? What do you do?”
But as you collect this precious information, make sure to curate what’s being said. Because:
Which brings us to our magic bullet question: “What are you hoping to learn from being here?”
Listen carefully to their answer, then do what you can to help them forward. For instance, “Oh you’ll need to meet John from booth 47-B, he also likes fly fishing.” Or “Let me introduce you to Kate, she’s our VP of engineering, and she’s had that staffing problem before.”
5. Close with an opening
How do you leave a conversation gracefully? Easy, be honest. Thank them for the conversation and tell them there’s lots of other people you need to meet (and leads you need to collect to show your boss).
But more importantly, end the conversation with an open door.
Yes, ask for the business card, but also tell them what you’re going to do with it. Tell them you’ll write tomorrow to schedule a video call, send them that hotel recommendation in Seattle, or forward their info to that contact you mentioned.
What about you? Looking for an easy way to organize an event?