A friend recently told me I am a champion at networking. I’m not sure about the champion part. I have no awards to show for it, but I’ve always felt comfortable in a room with new people. I consider it a fun challenge to find ways to connect with them. I’m sure this is why my career has been full of opportunities where I am the driver of the welcome wagon, the greeter at events, and the cruise director in the building.
I admit that I attend networking events with a game plan. I practice what I like to call, nice networking. First, I approach the people who are standing by themselves and aren’t sure who to talk to. I choose them because I know some people find a room full of strangers overwhelming. I see myself as the person to make it less so.
I introduce myself and ask, “So, how did you hear about this event?” I suppose this line is the business world’s version of “Do you come here often?” But it works every time. From there, one of two things happens: either the person engages in a conversation with me, thankful to have someone to talk to, or they are waiting for someone else. Either way, we exchange names and business cards, and I consider it a successful interaction.
Next, I find people I’ve seen at previous events. Usually, there are at least one or two because many of us are members of the same group. While catching up, someone new to me will join us, share their story, and offer a business card. This is the networking trifecta that I strive for with each interaction.
Nice networking puts good karma into the room. To me, it means to always be friendly and approachable first. Yes, I also want people to also walk away knowing I am knowledgeable about my field and willing to be a resource for them in the future. But kindness is always first. I come to these events with a smile on my face and a positive attitude. I ask people questions about themselves, their line of work, and how I can help. I want them to know that I am genuinely interested in connecting with them because I am. And, if they know the steps to the networking cha-cha, they will ask me the same questions. If not, I’ll offer up the answers anyway. 🙂 Networking, like many dance moves, is supposed to be done with a partner. If done right, it’s not a solo activity.
How do you approach networking events? Do you have a game plan or just wing it?