Last night, I was invited to attend a gala event at the prominent investment firm in NYC. There were 500-600 people there to meet, greet, and listen to great speakers talk about the market. I was invited by one of my past clients - so I didn't break in uninvited like I usually do. Just kidding.
Here are some key techniques that I used to make the night a fruitful and productive one:
1. Don't Go To Ask For Leads, Go There To Help People Get Leads.
So many people HATE networking. Why? When you go around a room full of begging for business and connections, it SUCKS. You have to change your perspective 180° and go to HELP people and not ask for help. You are there to connect — get to know them, understand their needs, and figure out how to help them.
2. Show Up Early.
Ensure that you actually get there and are parked safely way ahead of time. With traffic, wrong turns and accidents, you never know what will impact your travel. It also gives you time to get the lay of the land, see how people are dressed/acting, and talk to some of the support staff to learn about the building/event. My client actually scoped out the location the day before, got a guided tour of the building from security, and learned all about the history of the building - which he used as a talking point when he networked. BRAVO!
3. Wear Your Nametag The RIGHT Way.
Bring your own in addition to the one that they provide. Nametags are CRITICAL to the networking process. Unfortunately, most event planners get a big 'F-' when they design the nametag. Usually, your name (the most important item on the nametag) is too small and their logo is too big. Morgan Stanley did it right - my name was nice and big (even enlarging my first name) all to make it stand out and readable from a distance. I also had my personal nametag in my breast pocket of my suit - just in case they failed misarably with the layout. Also - pin/clip your nametag to your left lapel (right side if you are looking down). Why? When you shake hands with someone, it allows their eyes to follow up your arm to your nametag. Trust me - this is the best way for people to remember your name.
4. Triangulate Your Body.
When networking with a partner, many people tend to face one another. This is a huge faux pas. By doing this, you literally cut yourself off from everyone else and announce (with your body language) that any intrusion into your conversation is not welcome. My client and I actively 'triangulated' ourselves at a 45 degree angle when we spoke. This invited others to mingle in and introduce themselves without fear of intrusion.
5. Always Have A Free Hand.
Juggling a drink and an appetizer plate? Put one down. Always have a free hand to shake hands, make a point, or touch someone to enforce an idea. I can't tell you how many people bumble and juggle their drink/food when you first meet them. It doesn't leave a good first impression.
6. Act Like A Host.
Nervous about walking up to people and introducing yourself? Just act like a host - walk up, introduce yourself, and ask how their night is going. Or how the food is. Or is their wine up to snuff. They will never ask you if you are the host - they will just infer that you are an important person and you care about their welfare. A great way to start a professional relationship!
7. Always Talk About THEM.
Bottom line, who cares about you? Only YOU. So always position the conversation around the person you are talking to. Use my technique - Ask a question, listen, repeat. The more your ask questions, the more you learn about the person you are talking to AND the more that they are engaged into the conversation. This allows you to position and align any answers you provide to their interests.
There are so many more - but these are the best for now.
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Image: Royalty-Free License from Dollar Photo Club 2014.