I recently attended an executive networking event in Los Angeles with a fellow author/coach based here in Southern CA. In my career, I have had a chance to attend multiple networking events, and have also had opportunities to speak on panels and moderate.
Last night, as I looked around the room at executives mingling over glasses of wine and
hors d'oeuvres, I found myself envisioning who each person is and what their journey has been to arrive to this very place. Speaking to people who have achieved success in their career, you will find that it took much work, sacrifice, time and patience to get to where they are today. As an executive myself, I can attest to that journey and all the twists and turns that it took to get here.
As a sales professional and career coach, I have learned so much about the human condition and what makes you 'memorable' when networking with people in these high-pressure environments. So often, you see the usual: introduction, hand-shake, the shoving of a business card in the person's face, lots of 'sales talk' about your product or service and why they need it, and ultimately, the follow-up email or phone call that takes place the following week. Yes, we've all seen it at some point or another. Even in direct sales, I've noticed there's less and less time spent on 'connecting' before the 'sales pitch'.
I will share an example. I attended a business expo a few weeks back where I hosted a table to showcase my book and coaching business. Of the people who came up to my table to inquire on my book and career program, I will never forget this one lady. Normally, being memorable would be a strong suit, but in this instance it was quite the opposite. The interaction took all of 30 seconds and went something like this:
Me: (sitting behind my host table)
Lady: "Hi, what is your book about?"
Me: "It's about overcoming the Impostor Syndrome and pursuing the career path of one's desire...."
Lady: (cutting me off and reaching into her purse to grab a business card and hand it to me) "Oh ok. If you know anyone who's looking to generate a second stream of income, I am an agent for [insurance/financial services organization], and I am looking to add members to my team."
Me: "Ummm, OK. Thank you."
Lady: (walks away)
Take note, people: DO NOT DO THIS! This experience is memorable for all of the wrong reasons. There was no connection. I don't even recall her introducing herself by name. There was no genuine expressed interest in me as a person or my business offering; it was all about what SHE wanted from ME. Period. I probably made this same mistake early on in my sales career, especially in my direct sales roles outside of my corporate endeavors. I cringe at the thought! Ugh!
But, YOU don't have to make these same mistakes because you've got me in your back pocket to share some insight with you on how to be an effective and memorable networker. It's actually not difficult, and the sooner you learn and master these simple steps, the better.
When attending a networking event, prepare to engage in the room under these 3 simple rules:
#1) Mind Your Manners - So many times I've seen grown, educated and successful people throw out their 'home training' in the name of competition. Don't let that be YOU. Be polite. Say please and thank you. Be humble and kind to everyone (that includes the service staff and bartenders). Do NOT interrupt conversations between two individuals. Remember the manners you were taught as a child. They still hold true today. Honor them and they will honor you.
#2) Connect, Don't Sell - When meeting new people in a business environment, don't go in with your sales pitch. Say hello, introduce yourself. Smile, be warm and friendly. Try to get to know the person, their interests, their hobbies. Let the conversation naturally flow into the topic of business, without force. This simple tactic allows you to engage with the person and become memorable under commonalities outside of business. Maybe the both of you are Dodger fans? Maybe you both went to the same college? Could be that you both share a love of travel? Whatever the common denominators are, let those be the highlights of the conversation to establish a natural comfort level. As the conversation continues and you each share what you do, THEN ask, "May I get your business card. I would like the chance to connect with you at a later time." If he/she willingly offers you their business card, you in-turn share yours -- and voila! A genuine and memorable connection has just been made.
#3 Don't Lose Your Head - Many of these networking events are attractive because of the ever-so-popular open bar. Be cognizant of your alcohol consumption during these events. You want to be memorable for all the right reasons. Not for being the girl who was dancing on the tables, or the guy hitting on all the ladies after having one-too-many. If you want to avoid any questions like, 'Why aren't you drinking?' but still be able to engage in the great conversations happening over by the bar; show up to the event early and alert the bartender that you will NOT be drinking alcohol tonight. Instead ask him/her to make you a cocktail drink that looks like a drink but doesn't actually contain any alcohol. I have done this myself. I advise the bartender that I will order a vodka tonic, when what I really want is a soda water with lime, and he/she is welcome to garnish the cocktail with a little leaf or something to make it look like an actual drink. In doing this, you keep your head on straight throughout the event and can make effective connections without embarrassing yourself.
By following these 3 simple rules, you will successfully connect with potential prospects, partners and employers. The best part is, when you reach out the following week to follow-up on your conversation, the prospect will remember you fondly and be eager to speak with you again.
Take these simple tips into your own career and let me know how it goes for you. Looking forward to hearing about your experiences.
Don't forget that I have a private FB called Dare to Be Great, where we discuss career tips and other work/life hacks. If you'd like to join our group, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/224488874989905/.
Cheers to your success,