Monday, May 3, 2010

How to work a room.

Post 479 - “Networking is not about throwing mud at a fence. Determine what you really want to achieve and who the most important people or types of people are to achieving that, then both go to where they are and invite them to where you are. Again, remember that purposeful does not mean fake. It just means purposeful - like dating - which is very often very systematic and strategic but not fake.” according to Keith Ferrazzi in Who’s Got Your Back.

Some people are natural-born schmoozers. For others, being in a room full of strangers is a frightening experience. However, if you have a plan, working a room can be fun and easy, even if you're a confirmed introvert. Here are some ideas to help you network like a professional:

- Adopt a positive attitude.
Focus on the benefits of the event (e.g. to increase your income).

- Plan and practice your self-introduction.
This has two purposes - to tell people who you are and to leave them with a good impression. So speak clearly. Look people in the eye. Be warm, sincere and friendly. Use humor where appropriate.

- Prepare your small talk.
Small talk should amuse, intrigue, delight and pass the time pleasantly. It aims to make people feel comfortable, not to impress them. Rehearse two or three questions that will draw out other people and get them talking.

- Practice your handshake.
Business handshakes are firm, brisk and brief. Make eye contact and smile. Looking away gives the impression that you're trying to find someone more important.

- Put other people's comfort before your own.
When you care more about the other person's comfort, clumsiness and self-consciousness tend to disappear.

- Rehearse your opening lines.
When in doubt, smile and say hello. Make a positive statement or observation about what's happening in the room. Ask a simple question. Make a positive, but not overly personal self-revelation.

- Cut into ongoing conversations.
Don't interrupt two people if they're having an intense conversation. Approach groups of three or more and give facial feedback to comments being made. When you feel yourself included, either by eye contact or verbal acknowledgment, join in the conversation.

- Move on gracefully.
Don't leave when the other person is talking. Wait until you've finished a comment and then say, "I enjoyed talking with you. Now, please excuse me. I see someone else I want to talk with."

When speaking with someone about what they do for a living, close your conversation by asking, "John, how will I know if someone I'm talking to is a good referral for you?" Doing this leaves a lasting impression since you'll likely be the only one in the room who asked that, and it also gets that person thinking about how you really can be helpful to them. “Networking is simply the cultivating of mutually beneficial, give and take, win-win relationships. It works best, however, when emphasizing the ‘give’ part,” according to Bob Burg in Endless Referrals.

Here are some common mistakes that people make:

- They go to the wrong events.
If they're going to the wrong events, they're probably not meeting the right people or making good connections with the people they meet.

- They leave as soon as the event is officially over - for instance, right after the last round of applause for the speaker. Most people are more relaxed and easier to talk to "after" an event than they are during the official networking time at the beginning.

- They've set goals for how many business cards they want to hand out and collect - this is a common recommendation from the networking gurus. But a focus on the numbers can blind them to opportunities - including the opportunity to have fun.

Neil Senturia offers the following good advice:

- Think that the people you're going to meet at the event are all your friends. That has helped me open up more.

- Don’t think you have to “work the room,” or meet many people. Be with the person you're talking to at the time. The thought has helped control some urges for meeting more people and leaving the one I'm talking to, and allowed for more in-depth conversations.

- Stay a bit afterwards, and talk with the people you found interesting. Leave a “hook” to make sure you stay in contact after the event.

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