Networking takes on many guises, and here on The Breakfast Brief there are some great blogs providing guidance and tips in the blog post Identifying Networking Opportunities. I’m going to focus on a couple of tips when networking at social (work related) events, otherwise known as ‘working the room’. There are many people out there who are afraid of the word ‘networking’. I’m personally a fan. Think of it as a chance to socialise, be yourself and elevate your professional personal brand. It is nice to get away from the office, meet new people and expand your network. Just remember that there will be an equal amount of people who are as uncomfortable as you in the room, so try to relax, and be friendly.
So you arrive, put on your name badge, grab a drink, and scout the room to see if you know anyone. What next? Finding someone to talk to. OK, assume you know no one in the room. Timing is everything, and the hardest part is approaching a group or someone on your own. All I can say, is walk up, smile and ask if you could join them. After introducing yourself and, perhaps, telling them who you work for. Ask them what they do, and then ask other questions. Try to avoid questions that can be answered with a yes and no. Use words like tell, what, how, and describe. For example, I like to say, tell me how you got to be a scuba instructor. Or, what is it that you love about training ferrets? People like to talk about themselves, and have someone interested in them. It is surprising how much you will learn by listening. Hopefully, the conversations flow. If not, excuse yourself.
When someone asks what you do, it is important to be clear on this (it should hopefully not be too difficult). Do you have an elevator speech in mind? A what? An elevator speech is a 20 second snapshot of what you do, and who your work for. The idea being you should be able to describe what you do whilst riding in an elevator. My tip is to try to always end on, “Do you think I could help you in anyway?” Check out this blog for more on composing an Elevator Pitch.
As I noted earlier, at most events, we are given a name badge, which is usually pinned to your chest. This can be a little awkward, especially when trying to work out who is who. People do have a habit of slowly walking by and staring at your chest, try not to do this is. If you don’t know the person or group, who cares who they are. Again, wander up and say hello, introduce yourself and ask if are enjoying the event.
Absolutely avoid hanging out with your colleagues for the evening. I’m often guilty, it’s easy, and comfortable. You can socialise at work. However, if a colleague of yours is talking to a group of people, then this is obviously an easy introduction and entry opportunity. Make the most of it.
Now, chance has it, that you wander up to a small group of approachable looking people, politely make your entrance and then quickly work out that they all work for a competitor. Oh no, now what. Well, I see this as a chance to dig into what they are working on etc. Think of it as an opportunity to scout the opposition. Once you have got a bit of information, or not, excuse yourself.
So what is the etiquette with business cards? Well there is really no hard and fast rule – apart from don’t forget them! Even though in one of my previous blogs, I predicted the demise of business cards. You should always be prepared, once again, make sure you have them with you. Try not to pull them out of your trouser or suits pockets, scuffed and marked. Never a good look. Buy yourself a card holder.
Also, remember to place the cards you receive at the back of your card holder. What if you don’t bring your cards (or even better, run out). If you feel it necessary, politely ask for their card, note that you have run out. Then make sure the next day, you follow up with an email. I recommend also attaching your vCard to make it easier for them to save your details. If you are on LinkedIn, and you should be, ask the person if they are. The next day you should follow up. Make sure you prepare a polite message, something along the lines of ‘Hi. It was good to meet you at the property council event. It would be great to link in and connect our networks. I look forward to catching up again.’ Simple. I often book 15 minutes in my diary to remind myself to follow up after events.
If you ever see me at an event, please come and say hello, if I have not already. Good luck, and happy networking.
Kai Schindlmayr is the Regional Leader for Savills’ Strategic Corporate Services in Australia & New Zealand, Kai is a guest blogger for The Breakfast Brief. Contact Kai on 0422 002 067 or firstname.lastname@example.org