Wicked Start has previously blogged about how to learn to network, with tips for meeting people in your industry online and in-person. But sometimes it is the simple things that can help you get going in your networking.
Some time ago, I ran an event called Social Media Camp, during New York City’s Social Media Week. There were probably 60 people who showed up pretty early, and many of them were in auditorium chairs, looking at their phones or laptops and drinking coffee before the program started. I grabbed the microphone and said “We won’t be starting for another 20 minutes or so, but please use this time to take a moment to greet the person next to you, introduce yourself, and talk about what you are interested in learning today.”
It was as if I had kicked a hornet’s nest. Suddenly the room was buzzing with people getting to know each other, and getting a chance to find out more about the folks around them. People needed permission to say hello, but once that permission was granted, it couldn’t be stopped. When we tried to start the program 20 minutes later we had to work to quiet everyone down! Amazing what happens when you tap into people’s abilities and open them up.
People in your industry are there to connect with you at conference sessions, at coffee breaks, or in the hallway – they just may need permission to do so. Here are a few tips.
- Be open to a connection. Put down the mobile device. If you’re engaged in your email, you can’t be showing openness to networking.
- Smile. Don’t be creepy, but have an inviting expression that welcomes others for conversation.
- Have an opening line. You’re not picking up a date, but it still helps if you can break the ice. “Wow, that was a great speaker last session. I was so glad I learned how to make a Facebook page. What did you take away from it?” That kind of question gives the person something to speak about, and gives them an opportunity to share with you and appear smart.
- Be generous. Once you’re talking to your neighbor, ask what they need, and offer to help them find that information, connection or solution. If you can’t help, just offer to be on the lookout for them. After the conference, email and ask if they got their answer. Even if they didn’t, you’ll show yourself to be a caring and attentive business connection.
Make sure you take advantage of any opportunity to talk with others in your line of work, or in your work community. Keith Ferrazzi is famous for his networking book Never Eat Lunch Alone and his website has some free networking resources (including tips for holiday socializing – perfect for this time of year!) that you can use to extend the learning from that book. What are your networking tips? Let us know in the comments.