For some people the idea of going to a function to network makes them break out in a rash. They might even prefer a dentist drill to the idea. I’m not one of them. I think it’s fun to go into a crowded room and see who new I might meet that might help me, or me them, not to mention the chance to reconnect with someone I haven’t seen in a long time. I admit to once being rather fearful and yes, even a tad shy of such situations. I obviously outgrew that. If I hadn’t I doubt I would have achieved much success in my career.
I believe networking is not an option for professional success. In fact I think it might be more critical than ever. Not only does one need to hone the skills of in-person networking, today one needs to navigate it on-line as well.
But it is the in-person opportunities that I think the most fun and the most beneficial in the long run. As humans, people still want to be in the company of other humans. We network on-line in the hopes of an in-person meeting. My first year blogging I met Colette Martin on-line. We were both ex-corporate types on a reinvention path. We connected via our blogs. But it was when we met in-person our friendship was solidified.
This past weekend I attended the BlogHer12 Conference. BlogHer is the largest on-line community of women who blog. There were reputed to be almost 5000 attendees, mostly women meandering the conference rooms at the New York Hilton. So I guess like me, given the chance to meet face to face, one takes it.
Even a seasoned networker, like myself plans for such events.
Here’s the list I consulted ahead of time, what I call my networking checklist:
- Be prepared. Have business cards, lots of them ready and easily accessible. I like to slip mine behind my name tag so I don’t need to fish around my purse too much. This year in addition to my business cards which I like to call my official coaching cards, I also had postcards touting my books.
- Set your intentions in advance. Are there specific people you want to meet? Or is it more general in what you want for your business? Get clear on your intentions and write down the two or three most important ones. One of the things I always include is learning at least one new thing. This year it was the art of iPhonography.
- Know what you want to say. Some people call it the “elevator speech.” I prefer the concept of “log line” which is the term screenwriters use to pitch their scripts to the studios. Whatever it is, you need to speak it clearly, concisely and with passion. In today’s world you have less time then it takes me to get a regular coffee at Starbucks to get my attention. Plan for it.
- Be authentic. As soon as people hear the word “pitch” they think canned and too often speak it as though someone just hit the play button. You are one of the most important aspects of whatever you are presenting. Let you show through.
- Be bold. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. Look for an entre. It could be as simple as a compliment on someone’s shoes (if you really like them!) or as rehearsed as why you were seeking them out. One woman I met who has a really cool DIY website, made sure she was front and center to connect to Martha Stewart. Martha was on her intention list for the conference.
- Be confident. Own who you are and what you are up to. Don’t be afraid to shake someone’s hand or look them in the eye. Confidence attracts.
- Dress to Impress. I dress mostly to impress myself. I know I will work a room better when I like the way I look because for me that instantly makes me feel better. Above all go for clean, pressed and well-fitting clothes that say you care enough to care about you.
- Use your intuition. As you get more seasoned at networking you will find you will be able to gravitate to exactly who you need to meet and they to you. The clearer you are on the intentions you set the easier it will be for you to “work the room.”
- Take Notes. Especially at a 2-day event like BlogHer. You will NEVER remember it all. I don’t care how young your brain is!
- Follow-up. This is a picture of all I accumulated over the weekend. My follow-up includes the sorting of the piles. Who do I want to follow-up with on Twitter and/or LinkedIn? Who gets added to my mailing list? Who gets a direct email from me suggesting next steps? What am I going to do with twenty yards of yellow Duck tape and why did I think it important to take?
Bonus Tip: It is most fun and productive to attend these events with someone like minded who knows your intentions as well as their own and keeps an eye out for something or someone you might miss. A special shout out to my friend and cohort, Nancy Moon of MoonPR! It would not have been the same without you!