We all have our opinions about networking events – and most of us would prefer to do anything but attend a networking event – so here are a few tips to make the networking event a game. Many of these tips come from Vanessa Van Edwards who gathers research about the science of humans and shares it on here website: ScienceofPeople.com.
Find the best place to stand so that people naturally just have something to say to you –
- The exit path form the bar – maybe you can help someone who is precariously juggling three or four drinks –walk them to wherever they are going with the drink.
- In line at the food tables – plenty of things to talk about right in front of you on the table – and try not to be disparaging about the food!
- Inside the door to the room, not where they are greeting people – but a little deeper in the room. Who doesn’t like to see a friendly smile the moment they walk in. You can even offer to walk them to the bar!
Use your body language. Check out what Vanessa Van Edwards says about your body language to make sure you don’t turn people off:
- Open torso with uncrossed arms
- Head and chest up
- Shoulders pulled back
- Mirroring other’s body language
- Smile at people walking by
- Always offer to shake hands
And use professionally appropriate touch to make a connection: Shake hands, touch the forearm or top of the hand – people respond to the sense of touch.
Turn off your devices – phones, tablets,watches, etc. – so that you aren’t distracted and don’t give the person talking to the message that they are less important than the incoming message!
Above all, have a few good conversation starters at the ready – not the usual “What do you do?” or “Where are you from?” but something that can really ignite an interesting conversation – like “What resources are you looking for here?” or “What is your latest exciting project?” – for a list go to this link: www.scienceofpeople.com/2013/10/helpful-conversation-starters .
See how many connections you can make between others in the room. It is like putting the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together. “Here is a card I just got from a fellow who has just what you are looking for!” If you don’t want to give up the card, invite them to take a picture of it. Jot down the interested parties name of the back of the card and follow up and connect both by email after the event! When you are the connector, your value to others increases and you can feel good about taking the long view in your efforts – after all givers get.
Be a curious researcher. I myself am an introvert, and going to networking events requires that I play the game that I am conducting an experiment to see how to engage other people. With these tips in mind, and the powers of observing those around you who seem very engaged, you can act the part of a curious researcher. See how many meaningful connections you can make during the networking, and come back and share your results here!