This was the first Quick Take session I attended, and I must say I thought it was a brilliant concept. A condensed bundle of top tips on a specific topic, with no time for waffle – perfect! This was day 2 of the conference so I had already been putting my best networking skills into practice, and I was pleased to note that I was doing many of the things which Tom Rink recommended, but of course there’s always room for improvement.
Aims of networking:
building and maintaining relationships
getting to know people
building strong foundation for your career
enhance your reputation & credibility
facilitating resource/knowledge sharing
NOT about selling yourself
Tom began by stressing the importance of preparation. Before attending a networking event, spend time thinking about who is going to be there, who you want to meet, and how you can get to them. Come up with good questions and prepare your game plan in advance.
Get your elevator pitch ready – people will ask about you too.
Working the room:
– arrive early
– start by standing near the door, or near the refreshments
– talk to people if you’re waiting in line at the bar
– walk around
– listen in to conversations and join interesting ones
– when you meet someone you wanted to target use your questions to get started, & also have some ideas about how to maintain a conversation (e.g. do you follow them on twitter, have you recently read an interesting article they wrote?)
– have your exit strategy prepared – don’t prolong a conversation with someone who’s obviously not into it, equally don’t get stuck yourself when you’re ready to move on
Prepare some generic conversation starters, conference badges are great for this – you can ask about ribbons, organisational details, location based on the info you see there. Wear your badge on your right lapel so it’s easy for others to read. Flattery also works – congratulating someone on winning an award, or a particularly good presentation, is a great way to begin.
Aim to keep conversations to max 5 minutes, but be observant for signals if someone is trying to move on. Be a good listener. Use their name – not only is it engaging but it’ll help you to remember it. Be gracious, and leave politely.
Include as much information as you’re prepared to share.
Always thank people for their card, and spend a moment looking at it.
Make notes on the card at the time, or soon after, so you know where you met, and if there is anything specific to follow up about. (I also found this helpful when sending follow-up emails &/or inviting people to connect on LinkedIn later, opening messages with something specifically personalised like “it was a pleasure to meet you at X.)”
Social media is a very useful tool:
– pre-event networking
– keeping in touch afterwards
– sharing info/links that might be of interest
– showing interest in people & building relationships with them
– asking for help
The more you do it the easier it gets (I can certainly attest to this).
This isn’t just a skill for conferences/events – you can & should also network in your workplace, try to connect with people at all different levels of the hierarchy.
Aspire to be someone who delivers without being asked, a go-to person, be willing to help others be successful.
It’s often not who you know but who knows those who know you.
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