"The best networking opportunities in the industry." "Join us for our outstanding networking cocktail reception."
At how many of your events and meetings do you promise this, in an effort to attract more attendees? And at how many of these same events do you network for your own meeting planning business? Or are you too busy?
The truth is, even highly experienced, intelligent professionals often hate networking.
They feel awkward and uncomfortable. I meet a lot of people. It’s my job. I came to realize many years ago that "who you know determines who you become in life." Behind every successful person is a sound and well-nurtured network. The most successful people are always the best-connected. They have invested in their future by realizing the importance of getting out more. A low profile carries a high cost.
Try these tips and ideas to maximize your networking opportunities:
Change Your Mind
» Adopt this attitude: I wonder how many of these people are friends I simply haven’t yet met? This is a fantastic way to relax.
» Decide that you are going to meet new people, not just spend time "clumping" with those you already know.
» Scan the delegate list to identify people you would like to meet. Find them and introduce yourself. Or get someone you know to make the introductions for you.
» Make a point of volunteering to introduce people to others. This is a perfect way to be a fantastic host(ess), while simultaneously meeting potentially valuable contacts.
» Bite the bullet. Introduce yourself.
» Specifically target individuals who look a bit "lost." Help them feel welcome.
» Stay until you have met and connected with a pre-determined number of people. Start with just one or two. As your confidence (and success) grows, build it up to five or six.
Turn the Tables
» Think about the needs of your best contacts. How could you help them achieve their needs through any new people you meet?
» If you can, talk to the speakers before they speak. Most speakers value insights from audience members ahead of time. It’s also nice for them to see "friendly faces" when they are presenting.
» Stand up. Sitting down at a networking event doesn’t work.
» Give your name first. It helps put people at ease. Then ask for their name.
» Listen more carefully to others’ names. Repeat the name until it is lodged in your brain. If you didn’t quite catch a name, ask for it to be repeated, rather than "letting it go."
» Starting a conversation can be daunting for some people. Talk about common interests: what they want from the meeting, how long they’ve worked for their company, what they like about their role, what else they would like to do, the names of any speakers they are particularly keen to hear, what they think of anyone they’ve already heard?
» Focus on finding ways to be of value to others. Initially, forget what’s in it for you. Do this by offering opportunities to others: information, referrals and recommendations with little or even no desire for a return favor.
» In order to help others, you need to know what they want. To find out, ask lots of nonthreatening questions about them and share information about yourself, too, so it’s not seen as an inquisition.
» Don’t dismiss support or junior staff, such as executive assistants, wait staff and those on security; they can either be huge allies or your biggest enemies. Spouses also have far more power and influence than some imagine. Nurture them. Get to know them as people. Look after their interests, and they will recognize and reward you by providing access to decision-making superiors.
» Think of relevant questions to ask the speakers after their presentations. Then take the opportunity to do so, if invited.
» When you meet new people, find out enough about them to have a valid reason to follow up with a call, SMS message or email. Perhaps you can send them some appropriate information that you promised.
» Enjoy yourself.
Excerpted from "Meet Greet and Prosper," a free eBook written by conference moderator, speaker and relationships author Roy Sheppard. For more information about Roy, visit RoySpeaks.com. ©Roy Sheppard 2012