Have you ever walked into a networking or business event, scanned the room, and come up empty? There’s not a single familiar face in the crowd. If you’re like most people, that’s about the time when your throat gets dry and your palms get wet.
Here are some tips to relieve that sinking feeling in your chest, so you can walk away with your head held high by the end of the event:
Look for the white-knuckle drinker – If it is an after-hours event with drinks, the white-knuckle drinker is the person who is clenching his drink and looking as out-of-place as you feel. If it’s an event without beverages, the same principle applies. Just look for someone by themselves that looks anxious. Finding those people and introducing yourself is a great way to make an immediate friend. They appreciate that with your attention they no longer look like a loner and they will immediately warm up to you.
Ask them what brought them to the meeting/event – Once you’ve gone through the pleasantries of introductions, you can start the conversation by asking them about what brought them to the event? Are they a member of the group or a guest? If they’re a member; you can follow-up with questions like, “How long have you been a member?” or “What have you enjoyed about your membership?” If they’re a guest or a first-timer, you can pursue questions about what got them interested in coming to this particular function.
Show an interest in their favorite subject – This simply means that you should find out about them. Everyone likes to talk about themselves. Your biggest challenge may be suppressing your own desire to hog the spotlight. Express interest and curiosity in them (what they do, where they’re from, etc.) and you will walk away with a new contact for your database.
Keep your “sales hat” in the coat room – Networking events are not selling events. Avoid the urge to talk about how great your product or service is, because people will start fleeing to the bar or restroom just to get away. That being said, you should still be properly prepared for the inevitable question, “What do you do?” Have your Unique Selling Proposition ready, but present it in a way that is not overbearing or pushy. If your USP is crafted and delivered well, you will create interest. That interest can best be followed-up through an appointment scheduled after the event.
Stay open and inclusive – If you find yourself in a group of two or more and you catch someone in the corner of your eye hovering, open your stance up to the outsider. When there is an appropriate break in the conversation, you can give the newcomer a warm smile and eye contact and follow-through with an introduction and handshake. Always think of what you would like others to do for you if the roles were reversed and you can’t go wrong.