What to Do to Get the Most Out of a Networking Event

This is a guest post by Justin Hong a Managing Partner at Highly Relevant. Prior to embarking on his entrepreneurial ventures, Justin was a consultant with IBM in its Business Consulting Services division. Justin has a BS from Vanderbilt University and an MBA from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.  @JustinHong1

Below is an awesome article Justin co-authored with friend, Joe Chung @jjchung . . .

Here are few things you might want to consider at your next networking event…

[ 1 ]  Have the right mindset for networking: be all about cultivating friendships. When you attend a network event, you should have the mindset going into it that you want to make new friends — not “business contacts” or “potential clients”.  Think about how effective this mentality can be: instead of feeling the pressure to “close deals” and “find strategic partners”, you’re just there to have a good time and make friends.  As an added bonus, if you’re just there to cultivate friendships, you won’t turn people off by trying to sell them your service or product.  By approaching networking events with the mentality that you just want to make a few new friends, you’re more likely to meet people who will become your friends — who may be able to help you from a business standpoint in the long-term.

[ 2 ]  Prepare your personal “message.” Another thing that you should do prior to any networking event is to prepare what you’re going to say when someone asks you — and someone inevitably will — something like, “So what do you do?”  or “What does your company do?”  By preparing your message beforehand, you can get your point across clearly and succinctly.  Make your personal message interesting and easy to understand as well. Be wary of your audience. If you do something very technical, “dumb down” your description of what you do to something that the average person can easily understand, but do not talk down to others or assume they are ignorant of your business.

[ 3 ]  Initiate conversations with people. If you’re comfortable with talking to strangers, this concept shouldn’t be too difficult for you to execute.  If, however, you’re like the majority of people and are a bit intimidated by approaching people who you don’t know and starting conversations with them, you’ll probably be a bit apprehensive about initiating a conversation with a “stranger”.  One thing to keep in mind here is that successful people are simply willing to step outside of their comfort zones and run directly towards the things that they fear.  Break out of the grip of your fear, and just do it!  Your courage will be rewarded, and it’ll just get easier and easier in the future.

[ 4 ]  During introductions: smile, give strong handshakes, and remember people’s names. First impressions are important, and you want to make sure come off as a friendly, confident person who is interested in other people.  Think about it: aren’t you attracted to other people who are nice to you, sure of themselves, interested in what you have to say, and even remember your name?

[ 5 ]  Make strong eye contact — no eye wandering! Making strong eye contact is vital… but, at the same time, do NOT stare at the other person.  By having strong eye contact with someone during a conversation, you are telling them that you are not only confident in yourself, but that you are interested in them and what they’re saying.  Although this concept may seem easy to do, it’s actually a little bit awkward when you first start placing a strong emphasis on giving good eye contact… but don’t despair, you’ll work through the awkward phase and be better off for it in the long run.

[ 6 ]  Be interested in the other person…make each person feel like he/she is the most important person in the room. Think about how good it would feel to have someone treat you like the most important person who he or she has spoken to that day.  This person would be asking you specific questions to find out more about you, your career, and anything else that you would like to talk about.  Imagine that this person is also giving you his or her complete attention — regardless of whether you are in a crowded subway, social gathering, or (gasp!) a networking event.  How would this make you feel?  Would you have a good impression of this other person?  Exactly.  It would be amazing.  Now make sure to make each person you speak to at a networking event feel this way.

[ 7 ]  Be interesting! When you’re talking to people at a networking event, make sure that you are memorable: you can do this by being passionate, displaying enthusiasm, and exuding positivity… regardless of what you are talking about.  If you come across as boring, condescending, and stiff – trust us – people aren’t going to want to spend much time with you.

[ 8 ]  Display vulnerability. “Huh?” you might be thinking.  When we say “vulnerability”, we’re talking about actually opening up and admitting that you don’t know everything and letting people get to know the real you.  Much of the time at networking events, people are busy building up walls of invulnerability around themselves.  This means that they’re trying to play it off as if they don’t have any faults or that they don’t make mistakes — and busy not being themselves.  If you are willing to be vulnerable — by being the real you — you will definitely stand out in the minds of the people who you meet.

[ 9 ]  Be focused on how you can help the other person — not the other way around. Another way that you can stand out from the crowd is to always come from an angle of generosity.  While other people have the WIIFM (What’s In It for Me?) attitude, you will really be able to differentiate yourself and make friends by thinking of ways you can help the people you meet.  By “helping”, we mean thinking of other contacts who may be beneficial for them to know, offering them advice about a subject that you are an expert in, introducing them to other people who you know at the event, and so on.

[ 10 ]  Exchange contact information and ensure a follow-up. This may seem obvious (and hopefully it is!) — if you meet someone intriguing who you would like to develop a friendship with, remember to exchange contact information with this person!  A good way to transition out of the conversation is to let the other person know that you like making new friends and that you would love to continue your talk at a later time.

After the networking event, make sure to follow up with the contacts that you made!  For tips on how to follow up effectively, read our next blog post…

Original article here.

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