“Hello, have we met?”
It’s one of my favourite events of the year this Friday – the International Women’s Day breakfast at the Adelaide Convention Centre, which always attracts thousands of people and has my head spinning with how many I could say “hello” to.
Many of the followers of this blog may be into the throes of networking in 2020 too, so I thought it timely to revisit my advice on networking.
Some of you would enjoy networking – introducing yourself to people, catching up with industry peers, chatting about yourself and your work.
Others don’t enjoy networking so much – it can feel awkward, or be considered a pesky, noisy and timewasting chore.
Still, for most of us networking is important and a great way to meet new clients. It’s one way for you to learn, to keep up with what people are doing, to grab ideas and (shock, horror) to have fun and a few laughs.
Related reading: 5 Ways to Help Your Client Network
I teach networking 101 to university students and, combined with my own professional networking, it’s a topic close to my heart.
So I’ve compiled a list of handy reminders for you below:
- Get off your chair! That’s right – the dreaded “working the room”. If you’re at a seated event, make sure you move around (at appropriate times) so that you can speak with other people besides those immediately seated around you.
- Offer your business card. Many of you would naturally bring a business card to networking events, but there may be a tendency not to hand it out unless explicitly asked. Be proactive, don’t be shy: give out your card at the end of conversations, so your new pal knows where to find you.
- Prepare for smalltalk. If you’re on the shyer scale at networking events and find it hard to kickstart conversations, think of potential smalltalk topics beforehand. It might relate to your thoughts on a speech you’ve both just heard; the last time you were at that venue, or the events you’ve been enjoying in Adelaide during Mad March. You might also be the type of person who needs to ‘file away’ a few opening questions beyond the ‘what do you do?’ These could be: ‘What are you working on now?’, ‘What sort of clients are you working with?’, ‘What do you enjoy most about …’, ‘Can you recommend a good …’ and so on. If you’ve got more memorable and fascinating questions, please do roll them out – these are safety questions only!
- Prepare your elevator pitch. It’s an oldie but a goodie. Have a 60-90 second description of what you do. Make it natural and simple: who are you, what do you? I find a lot of people confuse marketing and PR, so I tend to describe the type of work I deliver for clients. It makes it more tangible to understand.
- Listen actively. I’m terrible at this; my mind can drift. Tune into who you’re speaking with, really understand what they’re saying, and the conversation will flow more naturally – and they’ll remember you as that good listener.
- Include others. You’ll often see others in the room, standing alone or looking somewhat lost. Approach them to say hello, or invite them to join the group you’re with. It’s not easy to break into a group, and that person will very likely appreciate the welcome.
Now, wish me luck in implementing this on Friday morning!
If you have other tips that work for you, I’d love to see them in the comments below.