Never Sit Down At Networking Events – Here’s Why?

Networking

When I was a newbie at this whole marketing thing nearly seven years ago, I attended an after hours  business card exchange event which mingled two chambers of commerce with food, drinks, and networking. You know the drill, I’m sure. I did the sign-in routine, headed to the food table and felt lucky to grab one of the rare seats available.

A few minutes later a good friend of mine arrived. Now Judy is a veteran of the “Networking World.” She is a master of “working a room.” She called me over to her and whispered six words in my ears that completely changed my entire approach to how I would attend networking events from that point forward. These were: “Never sit down at networking events!”

That was all she had to say. It suddenly became crystal clear to me. I’d been attending these events with no purpose in mind.

So now, whether it’s a Chamber After Hours event, a weekly referral group, or business luncheon, I remember Judy’s words and focus on the purpose of networking. Yes, even at a luncheon you can find ways to network. It’s amazing how much you can learn about a person while standing in line at the coffee cart!

Here’s a few of my personal networking strategies. Try them out. If they work for you, great. If not, think about adapting some of your own use.

Jean’s Personal Networking Strategies

  • Have a purpose in mind. I usually take a moment in my car before I enter the event and focus on my specific goal. It may be something simple like: “I’m going to meet 2 new people today and I’m going to find a way to connect with someone.” This connection is rarely about promoting NoWorriesIT. It’s about relationship building. For example, at the last Chamber event I attended, I met someone who wanted information about the Carroll Tech Council. So, as a member, I spend some time the next day sending a couple follow up and introduction emails.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be standing a lot.
  • I rarely eat at networking events. Why? I keep my hands free to shake hands, accept business cards, or write notes about ways I can help my new contact. (Okay, I might indulge at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual Christmas party, but that’s really about it!)
  • About writing notes…bring both a pen and a sharpie because a lot of business cards have a slick coatings. Pens don’t write well on those.

Conversation Starters and Tips

I used to be nervous about what to say, how to start a conversation, or walking up to someone I didn’t know. And to tell the truth, some networking groups are friendlier than others. There, I said it. It’s absolutely true.

To combat this slight shyness, I’ve developed these conversation starters and tips which I’ve found to be helpful in most situations. Again, experiment and see what works for you.

  • Be brave. Walk up to group, extend your hand, and introduce yourself. (I know easier said than done.)
  • Look for the isolated person and walk up to him/her, extend your hand, and introduce yourself.
  • Never launch into a dissertation about yourself and your company first. Always ask questions about your new contact. This is a gracious thing to do. And listen carefully. What you learn will be useful in personalizing a followup email the following day.
  • If asked “What does your company do?” I stick with what I call the 1-minute tagline. “NoWorriesIT serves small businesses, non-profits, and healthcare practices with their technology and security needs, especially when they don’t have an IT department on staff.” If that leads to more questions, then I feel out the situation and see how much information about NoWorriesIT I provide then and there.
  • If there are lots of questions about NoWorriesIT, I suggest a follow up coffee where I can learn more about his or her business (and can provide collateral material about NoWorriesIT.)

But what about Chamber events or weekly referral groups where you see the same people regularly? How do you avoid turning these into social events rather than business networking events? I’ve been thinking about conversation starters beyond “How was your week?” with the goal of continuing to engage these folks on a deeper level. Here are few lead-ins I’ve come up with:

  • What was the highlight of your week?
  • Did you have any major obstacle this week that you were able to overcome? (This may provide information on a service that you may be able to refer a connection/service to.)
  • I’m not sure I ever heard the story of how did you ended up in “Banking” “Real Estate” (Fill in the blank)
  • What was your dream job growing up?
  • Have you had any marketing successes this week/month? (This is particularly interesting to me since I’m in marketing, but maybe you have a similar “industry-related” question of interest).

Conclusion

So now you know why I rarely sit down at networking events! But it’s about more than staying on your feet. Networking is about having a purpose; building relationships by asking questions, listening, and following up; and finally deepening your connections. And that is why I suggest that you never sit down at networking events!

About The Author

Jean Burgess, Marketing Manager

Jean Burgess, Marketing Manager

Jean Burgess is Marketing Manager for NoWorriesIT, where she is continually surrounded by techno-speak and computer gear throughout the day. From Jean’s desire to understand this alien world of Cloud Computing, Remote Monitoring and Management, Data Backup and Disaster Recovery, and Network Security sprang this blog -Thoughts From A Wannabe Techno Geek. Her goal: to be a liaison between the knowledgeable NoWorriesIT system engineers and the small business reader in an entertaining and informative manner.

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2 Comments on “Never Sit Down At Networking Events – Here’s Why?”

  • Kelly Frager September 20th, 2017 2:01 pm

    Well-said Jean! I appreciate your fantastic tips. I too am not a sitter or an eater at networking events. The no-eating also makes handshakes easier and cleaner 🙂

  • Jean Burgess, Marketing Manager September 20th, 2017 3:05 pm

    Agreed, Kelly. I like to keep my hands free for handshakes and business card delivery! Thanks for the positive feedback and kind words, as always!

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