Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Savvy Networking

Going to a function/event/convention can be fun and exciting. To some it can be an excuse to get out and party like the good old college days. To others it can drag them away from their comfortable, complacent norm. Most successful people know that these events can be highly productive to their business and career if done properly.

Most people by human nature are a little daunted at new and unfamiliar events with many unknown people. The fear of rejection can be overwhelming. Many people are naturally shy and tend to end up blending into the woodwork as a wallflower or becoming the bartenders best friend. Here are some of the tips taught by leading trainers and authors.

· Prepare yourself for the event. Research the function, other attendees, presenters and host in advance. Google search is a wonderful tool to gather information. Prepare a list of benefits and objectives before you go and plan your time to focus on these accordingly. Most importantly visualize a positive attitude about the function, be in the moment.

· Before the event, prepare and practice your greeting, ice breakers and elevator speech. Your greeting should be a simple statement introducing who you are and what you do. Your ice breakers should be relevant to the function and/or the people who will be there. Your elevator speech should be about 7-15 seconds long and encourage people to want to talk with you more. Practicing these in advance is so important.

· Dress the part. Most functions will give you a good idea about what to wear. It is also a good idea to speak with the host or other attendees who have been before to exchange ideas of what to wear. Make sure to research the function thoroughly to make sure you are not missing something, ie. formal wear, walking shoes, a hat, etc.

· Just before the event accumulate things to talk about. “Small Talk” topics can be found in the local newspapers, trade publications and People Magazine to name a few. Small talk is fabulous and is the bridge between the ice breaker and that career elevating connection.

· Wear a name badge. Almost every town and city has an engraver who can make you your own personal name badge. There are also many companies on the internet that can do this as well. Your name badge should clearly have your name and affiliations on it. It should be worn appropriately on the right side so that it is easy to read when shaking hands.

· When at the function, be in the moment. Participate in two-way conversations maintaining eye contact. Don’t be scanning the room with your eyes for “bigger fish to fry” as this will be construed as discourteous, unprofessional and impersonal. You only have one chance to make a first impression. Human nature will judge you by this first impression and set the tone for future contacts. Make it count.

· Invite others to join in on your conversations. Acting as the gracious host will win you many kudos. By making the introductions the introducer gains status and clout. Practice being the moderator. Ask specific questions to let others shine and feel good about themselves. You will be remembered.

· Bring and pass out your business cards. It is strongly recommended to have your photo on your business card so that those you meet will remember you later. Have a place to keep all of the cards you will collect. The easiest way to get a business card is to offer a card. Always make a note on the back of the card collected as to where you met or specifics of the conversation.

· Practice “mirroring” the body language of those around you. If they are sitting then sit. If they are leaning forward then lean forward, too. If they have their hands on the table then… you get the picture. People feel most comfortable with those most like them.

· Follow up immediately after the function send an e-mail to those you met with a little note and your V-card contact info. It is also a good suggestion to send everyone a hand written thank you/nice to meet you card in the mail as well. It is a good idea to do this for the host and presenters, too.

· Do Not drink too much at the function. No one wants to be remembered as that obnoxious drunk person who… Remember my golden rule; whatever happens at a meeting/event/convention will become public information.

The information you can learn and share is insurmountable. The connections and friendships made can take you through a lifetime. With a little planning and preparing, the benefits of the function will be amazing. Afterwards you will find your confidence in yourself will have gone up dramatically.

A dear friend and colleague, Susan RoAnn, has given me this wonderful advice on how to make the most of it. She has written a book, “How to Work a Room”, where she describes in detail all of the how to’s. It is a must read for anyone who engages in social networking.

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