Networking with peers, experts, competitors, clients, vendors and prospects is one of the biggest reasons that so many of us attend events. Nothing compares to the personal connections you create in those face to face meetings. But, without a plan in place, you can completely miss out on the long term benefits of networking.
Here are three tricks to help you make the most out of the network opportunities available at your next event.
Networking Trick #1 – Create a “Hit List”
Create a list of people or companies that you want to meet. I like to call this a “hit list” for its strategic value (though you may not want to name it that if you write it out and put it in your pocket… TSA may not understand!). It’s not just people you’re hoping to bump into, or a list of people you wish you could meet – it’s a list of people you’ll specifically target and strategically plan to meet at the event.
Take time to consider why a meeting with each person on your list is so important and how you’ll make the meeting successful. What will you accomplish by meeting them; what will you talk to them about and how will you turn that meeting into a long-term relationship?
Networking Trick #2 – Bring Something to the Table
I can’t tell you how many times I have found myself as a target on another attendee’s hit list. I swear I can feel them coming at me. They want to meet me, they want something out of me, and they have nothing to offer me.
Now, I help people out pretty regularly without expecting anything in return. I’m a big believer in karma. But, I’ve also spent over a decade in a position to help others, and am bombarded by requests and opportunities to pay it forward. So, if you come to me (or one of the people on your hit list) asking for “help”, you’ll be yet another person in that queue.
So… don’t be.
Stand out from the crowd by bringing something to the table. Don’t start by telling the person what you want from them, tell them what you can offer them… and let them ask, “Why would you do that for me?” Then, be honest – tell them that you want to create some goodwill because you’re hoping that they’ll do X, Y and Z for you.
Be strategic with your offer. Not everyone will place the same value on skills, time and products as you do. For example, if someone came to me offering programming work in exchange for what they wanted from me – it wouldn’t interest me. I have programmers who I know and trust – even though they are expensive, that’s not something I’d replace for a “free” offer.
Networking Trick #3 – Ask for Introductions
This trick came from an experience I had years ago… and the best part is, the person who did this wasn’t being strategic. He was just so new, and so overwhelmed that his innocence and honesty ended up being his biggest asset.
Here’s the story: I had just finished giving a presentation to a packed room. There was a line of people waiting to ask me questions. At the end of the line was a young guy with wide eyes. When it was finally his turn to shake my hand, he thanked me for the information, told me he was overwhelmed by what he just realized he didn’t know, and admitted that he had no idea what he should do next. He didn’t even ask me for help – but I couldn’t stop myself. I told him to follow me and walked him around the conference, introduced him to people he needed to meet and products he needed to consider.
Even though this guy wasn’t being strategic – you can be. Apply a bit of strategy to follow his example and get similar results. Look at your hit list and determine how the various people are connected. Is there a speaker, a sponsor, a vendor, or anyone at the event that would know most of the people on your list?
THAT person is your first target. Talk to them, tell them about your plans and let them know that you have a list of people you’re trying to meet. Ask them if they know of the best way to approach those people… chances are, they’ll walk you right over to them. Most professionals appreciate being able to make connections and to receive introductions from colleagues.
Start planning now for networking at your next event!