We all attend events promoted as the perfect format to make new contacts and develop potential business relationships. I'm always amazed at how many talented and well-educated people do not know how to maximize these events.
Here are two easy ways you can make the most of networking events.
The "travel with your own PR agent" technique
It's simple and free. Enlist a sales colleague, friend, or fellow speaker to form a duo. My networking buddy in San Francisco is Susan RoAne, the best-selling author of How to Work a Room: Secrets of Savvy Networking and What Do I Say Next? We attend many meetings together.
Here's what we do. When we arrive at an event, we alternately separate and come together. I'll walk up to her as she is speaking to someone, and she'll say, "Larry, let me introduce you to Patricia Fripp. Patricia is one of the greatest speakers in the country." And I will turn around and say, "Larry, I bet Susan is too modest to tell you she's the best-selling author of three books."
When you do this, just as RoAne and I do, you're saying great things about each other that you'd love your prospects to know, but modesty prevents you from telling them.
Suppose Natalie and Fred are secret partners. As Fred walks up, Natalie says to the person she's been talking to, "Jack, I'd like you to meet Fred. Fred has taught me nearly everything I know about sales and our product line. There has never been a sales contest in our company he hasn't won." Then, Fred can say, "Well, Natalie's being very generous. It's true; I've been with our company for 16 years. But Natalie's been here for only six months, and she's brought in more new business than any other person in the 53-year history of our firm, so she knows a couple of things too. I tell you, you couldn't do better than work with someone as enthusiastic as Natalie."
If you are shy, volunteer yourself as a greeter.
Much of the value of meetings can be lost if you are shy and retiring. For many people, mingling with a room full of strangers can be an unpleasant or even scary experience. 70% of the population rates themselves as at least "situationally shy," says Susan RoAne in her networking books.
I encourage you to focus on all those exciting new people and messages instead of the butterflies in your stomach. Offer to take a job that requires interacting with other attendees. For instance, when you wear a name tag with a ribbon that says "Greeter," you can issue name tags, sign up people for workshops, or just direct traffic: "How do you do? I'm Chris Carter. Nice to meet you. Name tags are here. Food is there. How do you do? I'm Chris Carter. Nice to meet you." Soon you've met many new people and will get cheery nods of recognition throughout the event, making them more responsive and at ease.
A Bonus Thought about Connecting
The key to connection is conversation. The secret of conversation is to ask questions. The quality of the information you receive depends on the quality of your questions. A conversation may lead to a relationship. A relationship may lead to new business. A business relationship, when nurtured, will lead to long-term success.
Patricia Fripp is a San Francisco-based executive speech coach and professional speaker on change, teamwork, customer service,promoting business, and communication skills. She isthe author of Make It, So You Don't Have to Fake It and Get What You Want! Fripp also served as president of the National Speakers Association. She can be contacted via e-mail, at 800-634-3035, or through her Web site Fripp.com.