How do you enter a room at a networking event? Do you look for a friend or acquaintance that you already know? Will you rush to the bar or head for the buffet table? Will you make the rounds and hand out your business card to everyone you see as quickly as possible? What plan do you have to make the most of your networking?
None of these aforementioned tactics will be very beneficial to you as a professional if you haven’t established any common ground or done anything to set yourself apart from the others at the event. What can you do that will make a lasting impression with everyone you meet? How can you set yourself apart from every other networker in the room?
I want you to enter every room as if it is your own personal party. You are the host or hostess. This must be firmly planted in your mind before you cross the threshold of a room and you cannot waiver. As the host or hostess, it is your job to make everyone in the room feel welcome, comfortable and accommodated.
You do this by following some basic, straightforward rules. Rule number one – as you enter a room, you must enter a circle of communication or start your own. Within this circle of communication, not only do you introduce yourself, you insure that everyone within the group has been introduced to the others within the circle. It is your job to do so as a host or hostess. As others pass by your circle of communication, take a small step back and open the walls of this group. You will bring others into this circle; do not forget to introduce them to the group.
When doing introductions, be clever and friendly. Use first and last names; for example, “John Smith of Smith’s Speedy Deliver, I would like you to meet Bob Jones of Jone’s Porta Potties. It looks like you both deal with emergency situations on a daily basis. You should have a lot to talk about.” Gently touch the arm of the person you are introducing. This will remind them to pay attention as well as help to create a more intimate relationship between the two of you. Don’t be concerned if your circle of communication becomes large. It only serves to create more conversation and have the others in the room want to enter, too. However, you do not stop at this successful group of networkers. You move on to others in the room and repeat this success. How else will everyone get to know how gracious you are as a person?
Rule number two – don’t be scared to touch. There is a huge difference between grabbing and gently steering. Gentlemen, offer your arm to a woman and escort her over to a group for networking. Women, take the hand or arm of a gentleman and steer him over to other attendees. Remember, you are the host. It is your job to introduce everyone in the room. You do this in an appropriate manner that is gentle and non-sexual in any fashion. Use your very best manners and show some poise. You can never go wrong if you consistently remind yourself of this. Be sure to let them know why and where you are guiding them. For example, “John, you need to meet Robert Smith of Successful Bank. He is very well connected within the business community and I know he will be a good contact for you.” Then take his arm or hand and transport him to his destiny of success and good contacts.
Rule number three – it is not your job to find out who can benefit by doing business with you at each contact. It is your job to offer your assistance to whomever you meet. There is nothing more offensive or unproductive than someone who attempts to make a sale with every contact they make. Do not approach others and say who you are, what you do and start listing all the ways you can change their lives. I promise you that you will be tuned out almost immediately. Those people will avoid you and not want to use your services in the future because you have been labeled a “wear out.” A “wear out” is a person who wears you down by going on and on about how awesome they are. Face it, people want you to know how amazing their business is. That is the bottom line.
What is the happy medium for rule number three? Again, good manners come into play. After exchanging introductions, it is your job to offer assistance to them in the future. You will have a brief introduction prepared that you use consistently, that sets you apart from others. After that introduction, you need to refrain from taking over the conversation. Your job is to stimulate but not dominate the conversation. Shake their hand. Make it a good firm handshake with two or three pumps. If it is in a noisy or crowded area, I suggest cupping the hand to insure a greater intimacy. Do a side cupping with your hand to prevent that “trapped” feeling for the recipient. Exchange business cards. Let the other person know that your only job is to help them be successful. Tune in to what their business is about and offer to help. For example, “Debra, it sounds like you’ve got an amazing talent for organizing, I come across others who need help organizing their files and offices on a weekly basis, may I share these leads with you in the future?” Do not ask for leads in return. The leads will happen in the future for several reasons. The main reason being that you will continue to keep in contact with everyone you’ve met this evening by personal notes, newsletters and emails. You are, again, exercising good manners.