How many times have you been to a networking event, and clung to the first person you met, spending precious networking time chatting it up with someone who is as shy as you are about meeting new people? We’ve all done it, and the truth of the matter is that this type of behavior can defeat the purpose of a networking event.
As a business development professional, I too have fallen into this trap. Let’s face it, some days we feel more gregarious than others. However, I propose that you remind yourself, before stepping foot into that next networking event, that you’re there to make as many quality contacts as time will permit.
I recently asked a group of power networkers what tips they recommend to the otherwise shy or novice networker. Here are some of the best that I heard.
Be early and stay a little late. Some of your best contacts will be made prior to the crowd’s arrival and in the final moments of their departure. You’ll be afforded extra quality time with your new contact, during these moments.
Always have business cards, and if you don’t, have a memorable story that explains why, and can be used when you make that follow-up call. When you don’t have business cards, ask your new acquaintance for two, one for you to write your information on for them. Be sure to ask before writing on anyone’s card though; some people are quite sensitive about having their prized card defaced.
Learn to excuse yourself from conversations within 3 to 5 minutes (some pro-schmoozers would say limit conversations to 2 to 3 minutes). Politely remind your new contact that you should both attending the event to make lots of new contacts.
Be focused in your message as to what you do, and why you’re at the event. Today, we see an increasing number of independently employed, who are involved in multiple lines of work and business. Listen to what you’re new contact has to say, and quickly determine how you’re line of business might be of interest to them or someone they know. Telling someone, whom you just met, that you own an antique store, practice medicine and dabble in social media consulting will leave them confused. They’ll likely think you’re confused too.
Find out how you can help others, when making new contacts. Remember, it’s not all about what type of referrals you’re looking for. You’ll find that, as with life, the more you give, the more you get.