The 15 Most Important Networking Tips in all of Time and Space*
*slight hyperbole, perhaps
- Force yourself not to talk to the people you came with. I'm sure they are lovely but they are shiny distractions from the ultimate goal - meeting NEW people.
- Turn off your phone and leave it off. Facebook, Twitter, and CandyCrush can wait. Be present. Look alive. Make eye contact.
- Choose smaller events over the large ones. Intimate gatherings often yield the best connections.
- Volunteer to work the event - especially registration. It's an easy peasy built in conversation starter and endears you to the people in charge.
- Treat it like a first date.Craft brilliant questions to ask people. Actually listen to the answers.
- Don’t mentor or advise people without permission. You're not on the clock. You're there to connect, not educate.
- Class up your business cards. They don't need to be fancy. They do need to look polished and professional.
- In case of an awkward silence, force yourself to be the one who talks. Believe me, everyone will be grateful you took the initiative.
- Don’t discount the wallflowers. The most fascinating people are often the quietest and least flashy.
- Be unashamedly you - and use it as a filter. Not everyone's cup of tea? Great. Don't waste time convincing "not your people" people to like you or believe in your offerings when you could be off connecting with Mr./Ms./Mx. Just Right.
- Don’t rehearse your pitch - but rehearse your pitch. Improv is terrifying. Know your FAQs and how to respond to them. Be able to talk with passion about whom you serve, how, and what makes your work unique.
- Keep your eyes on your own paper. There is always someone smarter and more attractive than you if you look hard enough. So don't. It's a gathering, not a competition. No need to invite Imposter Syndrome along for the ride.
- Match attitude with action. Quite simply, walk the talk. People will notice how you treat others- especially the waitstaff and hosts.
- Practice gracefully ending the conversation. Give yourself an out! Be gracious but firm, if needed. Know what follow up actions you plan to take, and hope they will commit to as well. (Even if it's just "Please check out my website!") And then...
- Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up! Otherwise, seriously - the event was pointless. Without an action item, the relationship dies on the vine.