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done. People will be chatting away, and you (and
your friend) can join in a group conversation
knowing that in twenty minutes, the speaker
presentation will begin
There's no rule that says that once you've paid
your registration fee, you have to attend the
whole event. Make sure, of course, that you don't
walk into the room in the middle of a speaker
presentation or otherwise disrupt the meeting.
That's one unfortunate way to be noticed!
4. Go for the Wallflower.
For people who don't like breaking into groups
of avid talkers, my suggestion is to approach the
most forlorn and lonely-looking person in the
room, the person standing by him- or herself
when you enter. That person may be a reluctant
networker, too, and will undoubtedly be happy
to have someone to talk to.
Don't put pressure on yourself to have X num-
ber of conversations or to collect a certain quantity
of business cards. Fewer, richer conversations
are better than lots of quick and forgettable ones.
Not sure how to start a conversation? Think
of your conversation-starter as a friendly, informal
interview. "So, what brings you here this evening?"
is pleasant. Keep your focus on your conversation
partner, and additional questions will easily spring
to mind. "Are you originally from here?" If you
hate the dreaded "So, what do you do in your
work?" you can spend half an hour learning
about your acquaintance's life history,
interests outside of work, favorite places
to travel, and so much more. If a conver-
sational spark develops, you can follow it
wherever it leads.
Don't feel that you have to stick to busi-
ness topics - they tend to be the most
6. Don't Spit.
"Spitting" in conversation is shoving
your elevator pitch in a person's face -
don't do it! Let your conversation-mate
ask you questions about your business if
he or she wants to.
A Bumper Sticker is a good thing to
have - it's a one-liner that succintly shares
what you do without going into detail. "I
design and manage large product databases
for consumer-packaged-goods companies"
is a bumper sticker. A self-description that
takes 15 or 30 or 45 seconds is way too
long, and unsuitable for one person to
deliver to another person in the normal
flow of human conversation.
7. Ask Questions.
In the same vein as interviewing (tip 5)
our new acquaintances, asking them ques-
tions about themselves and their interests
is a great way to learn new things and to
build rapport. If you don't know a thing
about metallurgy, don't be afraid to ask
'stupid' questions of the metallurgist stand-
ing next to you at the canape bar. People
are normally happy to share what they
Asking questions of new acquaintances
is my hands-down favorite way to get to
know them. "I'm afraid I don't know a
thing about [your profession] - can you
tell me how it works?" is a great all-purpose
question when you're out of your depth.
8. Wrap up.
Always end a conversation by thanking
a person for his or her time, and expressing
your admiration for the person. "I'm so
glad I got to meet you - it's been lovely
to learn about you!" is a pleasant way to
part. If you feel like asking for a business
card, by all means do it, but don't ask for
it if you don't want it and plan to throw
it away the minute you get a chance. Like-
wise, don't offer your business card to
everyone you meet, just because it's a net-
If you seek further interaction, ask "Do
you ever like to have coffee, or lunch?"
rather than making a specific invitation.
It is easy for a not-terribly-interested per-
son to reply "My travel schedule makes it
really difficult" thereby letting you know
that you're barking up the wrong net-
9. Send thanks.
The day after a networking event, write
to the people you most enjoyed meeting
and thank them for their sparkling con-
If you can manage it, send something
of value along -- the link to an article
that's relevant to your new friend's inter-
ests, for example.
10. Thank the organizer.
It is rare, and very pleasant, for an event
organizer to receive a thank-you note or
two from attendees the day after an event.
Be one of the polite folks who takes time
to write and thank the host for his or her
time and effort.
If you want to get better at networking,
offer to volunteer as a Greeter at the orga-
nization's next event. That should get you
in the door for free and give you a good
reason to talk with people!
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