One of my readers, Jess, asked this question last week in relation to making her networking more successful: “How do you make yourself stand out amongst the crowd and be memorable when you’re potentially meeting 30 new contacts at a conference for example?”
It’s such a good question, so I’ve written a few tips below that will help make your networking more impactful.
1) If you’re going to an event or a conference, ask the organisers if you can have the attendee list beforehand.
Once you’ve got the list, spend ten minutes going through it and highlighting the people you want to meet. When you get to the event, don’t be scared to ask the organisers to point you in the direction of the people you’re wanting to be introduced to.
2) Be brutal with your time.
Don’t spend excess time talking to the one person or group of people. Practise out loud (and I know this sounds daggy, but it works) excusing yourself from a person/group before you go to the networking event. So something like: “It’s been so nice to talk with you but I’m doing my best to meet as many people as possible today, so I’m off to mingle now.” Or: “Well, great talking with you, I’m off to meet a few more people before the session starts.” Or even: “I’m here to extend my network and meet a lot of people, so thanks again for the chat and enjoy the rest of the conference.”
3) Be confident. And if you’re not, fake it ’til you make it.
I was at a Business Chicks event in Adelaide last week and was talking with a group of three ladies. A young woman approached us so confidently and said “Hi, I’m Jenny.” That’s all it takes! We immediately welcomed her into our conversation and were all so impressed by her confidence and ability to introduce herself.
4) If you really want to stand out at a conference, ask a question
If there’s an opportunity for Q&A at the end of a session at a conference, jump up and ask a question. It goes without saying that your question needs to be pertinent and intelligent, but by standing up and clearly saying your name and the company you’re from, you’ll get approached at the end of the session for sure. Someone is bound to come up to you and say “Great question – I was thinking about that too.”
5) Ask lots of questions and be friendly
Everyone wants to hang around with people who take an interest in them, and who come across as friendly, likeable and approachable. If you ask lots of questions of others, and go to efforts to be happy and upbeat, people will be happy to chat with you.
6) Get off your butt!
If you’re going to a seated networking event, and there are another nine or so people at your table, be sure to get up and actually walk around to them and introduce yourself. Take your business cards with you, and ask for theirs. People enjoy it when you take an interest in them and put effort into making connections. Don’t be too full on with this though – the aim is not to collect another nine business cards and then sit back down. It’s to genuinely show an interest in the other people, and to be friendly and courteous.
7) And lastly, ask others to introduce you around
This is similar to the first tip, but you’d be surprised how many people just go to networking events, or conferences, and don’t ask others to introduce them. Try this: “I’m trying to meet someone who knows a lot about xxxx – do you know anyone here with that knowledge? Would you mind introducing me?” Voila! Instant connections.