While social networking is the newest buzz, networking with people at meetings, conferences, and events will never go out of style. Learning how to effectively work a room and make meaningful connections with people can be an extremely valuable job search strategy. Below are 5 steps to help you bring your A-game to your next networking event.
1. Arrive – When you arrive at the networking event, walk around. Don’t be tempted to sit down even if others are. Remain standing so that you can approach others and others can easily approach you. Be sure to keep your business cards in your pocket or someplace where they are easily accessible. Wear your name tag just below your right shoulder so it is visible and within people’s sightlines when you shake hands. Be sure your first name is easy to read so you make it as effortless as possible for people to call you by name and remember your name. Think of your name tag as a welcome mat that makes you more approachable.
2. Approach – After you arrive and walk around, approach people who are standing alone, talking to someone you already know, or who are in the refreshments line.
3. Assert – As you approach someone, assert yourself by greeting the person with a smile and a firm handshake while saying ‘hello’ followed by your first name and/or first and last name. Always be prepared to answer the question, what do you do?. When you answer this question, respond as if the person asked you how do you help?. How you help is why people do business with you or why people should hire you. In 25 words or less, your explanation of how you help should peak people’s interest so that they ask you more questions and you both become engaged in the conversation. When people ask me what I do, I usually say that I help make the life of leaders and teams easier and less stressful. Isn’t that more interesting than saying I’m a consultant? Most of the time, people are interested in learning more about how I do that. Be sure to introduce yourself in a manner that projects enthusiasm and confidence.
4. Attend – After you both have exchanged introductions, ask the person open-ended questions that begin with “what” and “how” to learn more about them and to engage them in conversation such as, What do you enjoy most about your work? or How long have you been in that industry for? The more you learn about others, the more likely you can help them or someone they know.
5. Appreciate – End the conversation on a positive note by shaking hands, exchanging business cards, and expressing your appreciation such as, “I appreciate your interest and I’ll follow-up with an email to schedule a time for us to meet and talk further.”
After the conversation, jot down a few notes about the person, including the date and where you met on the back of their business card to help you remember them. Be sure to only exchange business cards after a conversation in which rapport has been established. It is presumptuous to assume that someone is interested in receiving your business card at the beginning of a conversation. Prepare and practice your self-introduction of how you help so that you can communicate it with ease and confidence and set the stage for making a meaningful connection!
Tina Smagala is a Leadership Development Consultant and Regional Director for RV Rhodes LLC. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 585-721-6538.