It’s amazing how few professionals really know how to “work” a room. They actually think lunches, receptions and similar events are for eating, drinking and making merry! They don’t stay focused on the networking opportunities such events provide. Worse, they tend to congregate in a circle or sit with their friends instead of working the room and agreeing to meet afterwards to share information on the contacts they made.
Below are some tips to help you take advantage of networking opportunities. While some may be common sense and second nature to you, others may help you get the results you want.
- Never attend a business function without a large supply of business cards. Place them in your right pocket (if you are right-handed). When exchanging cards with people, put their cards in your left pocket. Make sure to get the other person’s card. If you only give out your own, you will have no way to follow up.
- Be the first to enter the room and the last to leave it. This will dramatically increase your opportunities for success.
- Position yourself at the “center of influence,” the center of the room and not the food and beverage areas. This way, you can see who is coming through the door and keep your eye out for those VIPs you’ve been wanting to meet.
- Approach people by walking toward them, extending your hand and introducing yourself as you deliver a handshake.
- Create and memorize a matrix of questions that will “break the ice” and establish rapport. Casual conversation is best. Some examples include:
“So, how do you like the show?”
“How long have you been coming?”
“Do you know the new President?”
“Did you enjoy the speaker today?”
“How’s business in your neck of the woods?”
“I’ve been wanting to meet you, Mr. Smith.”
“I love the new _________ your company has.”
- Give them your memorized “elevator speech,” a one-minute commercial about yourself and your company, and determine whether that person is a potential distributor for your line.
- If the person is not a prospect or someone who can refer business to you, be polite and chat but keep your body open and your eyes on the door. If you spot a potential customer, quickly conclude your conversation by saying, “Excuse me, there’s someone I need to meet. I’ve enjoyed talking with you. Perhaps we can talk later.” Always be gracious and professional.
- When you do meet a potential customer, close your body toward theirs and make sure you maintain eye contact while talking with them. If they have others with them, be sure to direct eye contact to them as well, and include them in the conversation. Focus on them and remember the golden rule: make them feel important. Be professional and never aggressive; it’s the quickest way to turn someone off.
- Ask for his/her business card. Invite him/her to your booth, or state, “May I give you a call next week, Mr./Ms. Smith?”
- Make sure you move through the room—never stay in one area. Make it a goal to stay in the room until you make three good connections and have three quality conversations.
- Wear your name badge high on your suit or shirt, and up to the right. When you shake peoples’ hands, they will be able to read your badge easily.
- Follow up within three days after the connection and stay connected.