How to Work the Room and Make Networking Work for You
Friday, February 24th, 2017
You’ve probably been to dozens of them -- morning, afternoon and/or evening networking events. However, how many times have you looked around the room and wondered what the benefit really was in attending one of these events?
To make a networking event work for you, try acting as if you are the “host” at each event you go to … and follow this step-by-step method to networking in a room full of people that you don’t know, might want to know -- and you only have an hour or two.
Step One: Show up at least 15 minutes early and get the best spot in the room. Scope out the room, see where the positions of power are (hint: they aren’t by the bathroom and they aren’t in the back of the room, sitting down at a table for two!) Positions of power at a networking event are near the door where people come in, and near the bar if it’s an evening event. I’ve found that if you are near the door greeting people as they come in, you are automatically seen as the hostess or host of the event. Also, in my role as “host”, I act as if its my job to be sure that people who attend get their needs met -- which means they meet people that can make a difference in their business.
Step 2: Start the conversation … and ask questions. In your role as a great host, start the conversation for each person/group that you talk to in order to get the ball rolling. I always walk up to someone and tell them my name/ask theirs – a simple (but always effective) way to break the ice and sets the conversation in motion. Other questions to ask could include: “How do you spend your day?”; “What’s the best part of your job?”; “Who can I introduce you to in this room?”; “What made you come to this event?”; “Is there anything I can do for you?” These questions -- and their answers -- will provide you with a great place to start a relationship.
Step 3: Listen to their answers and take it upon yourself to do something to help. Go above and beyond just shaking your head and smiling. If they tell you they are looking for a great travel agent and you don’t know one- find one for them! Use your networking skills and find someone you can refer them to -- it obviously doesn’t have to be that night, but make it a point to go out of your way to go the extra mile. Here’s what this is going to do. When you give something to someone, the natural inclination is for that person to give something back to you. You establish a back and forth, a give-and-take, a “networking relationship” … which is the reason you paid the $30.00 to come to the event in the first place!
Step 4: Don’t get stuck. As the host, remember, your job is to make sure everyone in the room gets their needs met -- which means you can’t spend an hour with someone you just met. 8-10 minutes is the average time that should be spent with a new connection at an event. That’s just enough time to ask your questions, meet their needs then and there or tell them you will get back to them within the week, exchange business cards and make a time to talk to maybe set up a time to meet.
There can be tremendous benefits to attending a networking event throughout all stages of your career – and CEOs can most certainly benefit from connections made through strategic networking events that you may not have even considered attending. After acting as the host at two or three of upcoming events, consider taking it a step further and possibly create and host your own networking event – helping to connect others – and continuing to grow your own business -- through the power of networking.
Lucy Rosen is president of SmartMarketing Communications (www.smartmarketingcommunications.com ) , a national marketing, public relations and business development firm with offices in Bluffton, SC. Lucy has been featured in hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles -- including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Entrepreneur, Working Mother and PINK Magazine -- and lectures nationally on the topics of Business Development, Public Relations, Starting Your Own Business and, of course, Networking. Her business networking book, Fast Track Networking: Turning Conversations Into Contacts (Career Press, June 2010) is available in bookstores nationwide. For more information about Lucy Rosen, visit www.smartmarketingcommunications.com.