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Networking 101: Part 2

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Networking 101: Part 2
Written By: Sandy Bjorgen, IMPROV-able Results ~ 10/12/2023


At the end of Part I, you had stashed your gear so you could be as hands-free as possible and then signed in. Now, let’s get you out there navigating the floor and meeting people:

Work the room:

  1. Look around to get a feel for the space. Roam around. Be curious. Know that the room is full of interesting people, also people who are nervous and shy. You can get warmed up and energized by greeting people you know, but don’t hang out with them – they already know you. Breath!

  2. Look to make eye contact: if it lingers, move toward them. Offer a smile and a handshake, exchange names, chat. Be yourself. Don’t put on airs. Relax. You’re here to meet, connect, socialize – not to pitch for an appointment or sale.

  3. Help yourself remember names by repeating them upon meeting (or silently to yourself).

  4. Stand by groups and listen at a respectful distance—join them if they start to include you, nonchalantly move on if they don’t. Help others join groups--introduce people you know, or have just met, to each other.

  5. Don’t feel you have to meet everyone. Don’t feel you have to move on if you’re hitting it off with someone. Don’t allow yourself to stay stuck with someone if you want to move on. Always have an exit strategy in mind: something you can say and do to respectfully signal that you’re moving on.

  6. Don’t automatically hand out your business card; wait for an appropriate time (if there is one). It’s okay to ask for another’s card. Don’t give out your card unless there is interest and permission – you’ll know if you have it.

  7. Make it about them. The more you talk, the less you learn. Tell people what you do only if asked and then keep it brief—this is a conversation not a monolog. You lose people if they don’t get enough chance to talk. Be curious, ask open-ended questions. piggyback on their comments. Watch for body language that tells you they want to disengage—or that they’re interested in hearing more from you.

  8. Do have an intriguing one-liner ready if asked what you do. For example: “I was once so shy, I couldn’t talk to myself. Now I train others to stand up and stand out.”

Stay late:
Plan to linger afterward to make more new connections or to reconnect with others. As soon as possible – before you leave or back at the office or home - debrief with yourself while it’s all still fresh in your mind: tell yourself what you liked about what you did and what you would do differently next time. Jot notes to yourself to help you remember specific people and things you learned about them so you can follow up in a personal way, rather than in a canned salesy way.

Follow up soon and selectively:
If people like how you make them feel – at the event and in follow-up, they’re likely to want to continue developing a relationship with you.

During the next day or two, send an email or handwritten note to people you’d like to reconnect with. If by mail, omit your business card – but do add your title and business name after your own name in the note. Personalize the note by reminding them of where and when you met and referring to something you learned about them (or something you have in common). When possible, send them information or a link to information that might interest them or help them in their specific pursuits. Look them up as soon as possible (before they forget you) on LinkedIn and invite them to connect.

Don’t feel you must contact everyone you met. Don’t send a note that could be sent to anyone and everyone. Don’t send an impersonal LinkedIn request and use the person’s full name in the greeting - it’s obvious that it’s canned, and it will make you look like you’re playing a numbers game and don’t care. Don’t barrage them with requests to meet up or read your article or give you feedback – you will seem pushy, tacky, and desperate.

“Real listening is a willingness to let the other person change you. If you don’t listen deeply, the connection won’t take place. You have to be willing to be changed by the person you’re listening to, where you’re not just waiting for a pause so you can say your thing, but you’re actually letting them have an effect on you if they can. When I'm willing to let them change me, something happens between us that's more interesting than a pair of dueling monologues. Like so much of what I learned in the theater, this turned out to be how life works, too.” [Alan Alda]

A good strategy is to remind yourself to quiet your internal chatter, to stay focused on the person in front of you, and to listen so attentively that, if the other person loses a train of thought, you can help pick it back up by saying, “What I heard you say was ….” This shows you cared enough to listen closely. It’s the key to building rapport and trust and ongoing relationship.

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Sandy Bjorgen
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