If you’ve been following my content for a while, you know that I’m a big proponent of taking social media connections and getting to know them better with face-to-face interactions. You can grab a coffee if they are local, set up a Skype call – whatever. Every online connection that I have seen and heard has always taken our “relationship” to the next level.
But what about casting even a wider net and attending local events with the goal of meeting new people?
This can be a little scary, if you are new to this type of networking. But trust me, if a guy who still stutters can put themselves out there, you can too!
I went to an event recently by myself, which requires a different strategy than going with a friend. I’ve found that going by yourself forces you to be more social. That “security blanket” of having somebody with you makes it easier to avoid contact with complete strangers. I highly recommend getting uncomfortable and going by yourself some time to take your networking to the next level.
Here are seven tips that I came up with after attending the event:
- Break the ice by making your first interaction of the night an easier one. If there are trade show booths set up, chat with somebody at one of them. Or do a “warm intro” with somebody you are connected with through social media that you recognize, but haven’t actually met yet. If you see any of the organizers of the event, those are great people to speak with too.
- Listen more than you talk when meeting new people. Be ready with a quick elevator pitch about what you do, but focus on asking them open-ended questions and sitting back and listening. It’s a good idea to have at least 5 questions ready to ask, even if you only use 2 or 3. There’s nothing worse than that awkward moment when you (or the other person) don’t know what to say next. Over time, make a list of questions that people seem to like answering the most, and use those again.
- Get other people’s business cards – then you are in control. If they only get your card, you are in trouble. Now you can only hope that they reach out, if you did not remember their name. Follow up with an email or social media interaction shortly after the event. What’s your next step to developing that connection?
- If you see two people that you know, that may benefit by knowing each other, introduce them. Get the reputation early on in your networking career of becoming a “master connector.”
- NEVER ever be salesy on that first interaction. Imagine how silly you will look if you’ve known somebody for 30 seconds, and get pitchy about what you do! They obviously can’t unfollow you at a networking event, but they can quickly make up an excuse to walk away
- Relax! You won’t be an expert at these events right away. Some days you will be on your game more than others, but your skills will get better over time, if you are open to learning from your mistakes
- Smile a lot – ALWAYS a great strategy!
This is what actually happened:
- I approached a trade show booth as soon as I got there, and interacted with one of the people working at it. It was a bit of an awkward conversation, but served as my warm up for the night
- I then recognize a contact from a referral group that I used to belong to. It was a great way to get social early in the evening, and catch up with somebody that I knew at another booth
- I started a conversation with two people from vastly different industries and had a long chat with them. They were at the event together, and I made sure to ask questions specific to each of them, so one did not feel left out
- One gentlemen came right up to me, and said he knew me. After I blanked for a moment, I realized that we had coffee before, and corresponded several times over the last few years. We sat together during the formal part of the event
- I wanted to talk to a social media connection that I recognized, but she was very busy speaking to other people. I sent a follow-up note that I recognized her, and complimented her for asking a great question during the Q&A period of the presentation
- I noticed one other person that I thought I knew, so I reached out after the event to see if it was them. I lost them in the crowd when the event was at its busiest
- I had a brief chat with one of the organizers of the event, after they saw me signing up for email updates from their group at an event table
- Thanked the two people at the event that had invited me, and made sure to connect with them on social media when I got home, followed by thank you emails
As I wrote this out, I realized that a lot happened in two and a half hours at that event! Every time I walk in to a new situation, there is that momentary pause where I have to take a deep breath before diving in and making it all happen. But once I do that, things just start to flow for me, and should for you as well.
I’d love if you shared some of your face-to-face networking stories, even if things didn’t work quite out as planned. This is an AWESOME topic to learn from each other.