“Interacting, networking and campaigning like Arnold Schwarzenegger” Yay Area, E-40
According to Porter Gale, former vice president of marketing at Virgin, your network is your net worth. I agree with Gale. Whether you’re an introverted programmer, who wants a new job, or a sales executive, looking for your next customer, networking is vital to your success.
Today, people change jobs anywhere between 10 and 15 times during their careers, and studies show that often the best job leads are likely to come from your distance acquaintances (weak ties) rather than your close friends or family. The weak ties theory holds true for more than just job hunters though. It also rings true for entrepreneurs, who will be fundraising; sales execs, looking for new prospects; and young people, looking for mentors.
Networking is always important because the more people you know – who like you (because, yes, likability matters) – the more opportunities you have to get what you want. The problem is networking doesn’t come naturally to most people. Here are some tips on how to kill it in your next networking event.
Combat your networking fears by being really prepared. Here’s a few questions to answer to help you craft your plan before a big event.
What’s my goal?
Ask yourself: Why am I attending this event? Set two outcomes you hope to get out of the event for yourself. Outcomes could be anything from getting a new job lead to simply connecting with three people you’ve never met before. Goals help you stay focused and keep you from aimlessly wandering around the event.
Try to learn who’s attending the event beforehand. If you can, then do your research on these people prior to attending. Information is power so the more you have of it, the better off you’ll be. I suggest using tools, such as Crystal Knows, Conspire and LinkedIn to help you conduct your research.
What’s my elevator pitch?
Once you set your goal and know who’s attending the event, then it’s time to craft your elevator pitch. A/B test a few different introductions to learn which one resonates the best with people. If you need more help on this subject, read this fantastic post on elevator pitches on Skillcrush.
What’s my call-to-action (CTA)?
Make sure you end each conversation with a CTA, which could be anything from “Can I follow up with you in X weeks/months?” to “Would you mind if I emailed you for an introduction to Mary?”
While being prepared will decrease your chances at awkwardness, there’s still a few things that could trip you up during the event so it’s important to keep them in mind.
Don’t drink too much
Make a fool of yourself with your friends, not your professional network. Limit your drink intake to one or two at the most. You know your limits.
Numerous studies have shown that people who make higher-levels of eye contact with others are perceived as being more dominant, qualified and skilled while still being warm, personable and sincere.
Make sure your name tag is visible
Put your name tag on your right lapel so when you go to shake people’s hands, your name is easily visible. This will decrease the awkwardness of people trying to look for your name and not being able to find it.
Have a strong handshake
According to The Muse, a Fortune 500 CEO once said that when he had to choose between two candidates with similar qualifications, he gave the position to the candidate with the better handshake.
Need I say more about strong handshakes?
Follow-up after the event with people you’re interested in staying connected.
You may not need them now, but you may need them in the future so, at the very least, connect with them on LinkedIn by sending them a CUSTOM invite.
Aside from a LinkedIn invitation to connect and/or following them on Twitter, shoot them a quick email that tells them it was a pleasure meeting them, and you look forward to seeing them at future events or something similar.
In Hootsuite, you can make a stream of people you met at the event to make it easy to see what and when they’re tweeting. Retweet or heart their tweets to keep yourself at the top of their minds. They’ll definitely notice the effort.
Last and certainly not least, follow up via email. Either using a program like Contactually or Yesware (an IDG Ventures portfolio co.), set a reminder to follow up in X weeks/months – whenever you told them you would at the event.
Networking is easier than you think
In the famous words of Woody Allen, “80% of life is showing up,” so just get out there! Be prepared, behave yourself and follow up, and you’ll do more than just fine.