Face-To-Face Networking

10 Tips For Effective Face-To-Face Networking

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It’s funny.

I’m pretty sure if I did a poll among working folks these days, after death and public speaking, the next thing they fear most is networking. It makes sense really because face-to-face networking is public speaking in a one-on-one format. We’ve all heard the phrase, “You only get one chance at a great first impression.” So, the pressure is actually on us before we even walk into the big meet-up.

Moreover, as I’ve pointed out before, the additional pressure to answer the question, “What do you do?” in an impressive manner makes us even more stressed out.

Yes, the ability to deliver our personal brand effectively in that face-to-face meeting can feel overwhelming – and yet, it doesn’t have to be this way.

There are 10 tips fellow blogger Chris Brogan has repeatedly shared in his posts. He is someone who travels and meets thousands of people each year, so I think we can all agree that Chris must have a good sense of what stands out in the first impression category.

And, while I don’t travel as much as Chris, I do meet hundreds of people every month when I speak. So, I can vouch his tips are accurate. Here they are:

  1. Be sexier. Confidence matters tons.
  2. Remember that you’re every bit as important as the person you’re meeting. Not pompous or arrogant; just important.
  3. Don’t push your agenda. Just get to know me. We can do business any time. Just meet me. We’ll do business later.
  4. Share. Give people things (and things can be information, ideas, introductions to others).
  5. Praise other people. The more you tell me about yourself, the more I wonder if you’re cocky/arrogant.
  6. Share the air. If you talk and talk and talk and I nod and smile the whole time, I’m happy, but also probably not going to remember much about you.
  7. Brevity is okay, but also knowing a nugget about what makes you passionate is great. If you say, “I’m really into surfing,” then I’ve got lots to ask you. If you say, “I love your tweets,” I can say thank you.
  8. Introduce me to someone else. I love meeting your friends, too.
  9. Bring your best ideas. If you’ve got something to run by me, it’s okay if it’s brief. Share the nugget, not the riverbed.
  10. Know that coffee and beer trump breakfast or dinner. People often want to continue talking over a meal. It’s hard to meet with lots of people and take an hour or more for a meal. Coffee or beer works just fine.

Do you see the themes in his tips?

Be thoughtful, humble and attentive. It’s simple good manners, don’t you think? In a time when many people are very self-absorbed with their own problems and concerns, Chris is pointing out a true gem: stand out by absorbing yourself in others. A brilliant and easy-to-implement brand strategy if I’ve ever heard one.

So, what have you done absorb yourself in others lately? Give these tips a try at your next meet-up and see what happens?

I guarantee you’ll be memorable for all the right reasons.

That being said, does anyone have any other tips to add?

Please share them with readers below.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

J.T. O'Donnell

Job Search & Career Expert. Syndicated Speaker & Author. Wife. Mother. CEO of CAREEREALISM Media. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

15 comments

  1. Interesting points of view.

    Question: How do you handle a scenario where there is a person, or group of people, you would like to get to know but they are already engaged in conversation. Standing next to them obviously makes everyone uncomfortable. Stalking (waiting for them to get free from a few feet away) is equally awkward. In either case, there is no guarantee that the person will break off their current conversation or be available when they do come to a stopping point.

    I believe that standing in line to speak with a presenter is fine; if they were effective there can easily be a group of people waiting to make contact. Standing in line to meet another attendee is a different story.

  2. Richard I. Garber

    There was a magazine article by A. M. Ruscio et al published in 2008 about social fears of US adults in a large survey called the NCS-R. Networking (meeting new people) was feared by 16.8%, and it came third behind 19.5% for speaking up in a meeting/class, and 21.2% for public speaking/performance. You can read the article at PubMed:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2262178/?tool=pubmed

    When you add in specific fears, meeting new people comes in tenth on a list of twenty fears:
    http://joyfulpublicspeaking.blogspot.com/2011/08/20-fears-for-new-millennium-replacing.html

    Richard

  3. Be aware of your own body language & use it well to be warm, open, friendly–avoid closed-off, crossed arms or flailing over-exuberant gestures (a difficult balance!)

  4. Yes! I’d also add that while Scott is right – bring your business cards! – don’t just hand them out to anyone and everyone. Be strategic. Give them to key people and to whom you think there are opportunities for a worthwhile “second date”. Giving them away to anybody and everybody isn’t cool – no one likes (or wants to contact) a card slut.

  5. I think you hit them right on the head – the only thing I would add, and this is especially true in the morning or near lunch time – please, use a tic-tac or breathmint. There is nothing worse than stale coffee breath or that big slice of Garlic Pizza you just ate to turn people away from you like the plague. Some folks like to chew gum, not in networking situations – chewing in someone else’s face is rude, disrepectful and totally inappropriate when you’re working hard not only to make a great first impression, but to enlist others into your campaign.

  6. Excellent points. You asked, so here are 5 more:

    11. Prepare intelligent questions. Often the questions you ask say more about you than the answers (or unsolicited information) you offer.

    12. Connect. Even if its just about a shared passion for 1970s muscle cars. Especially on a first 'date', it's more important to really connect with someone, on an emotional level, than simply to troll for useful information or contacts.

    13. Focus on getting a 'second date'. After all, you wouldn't marry someone after just one date; why would anyone refer you for a job after just one meeting?

    14. Listen to what is *not* being discussed. Take notes of oblique answers or deflected questions; these may indicate a pain-point that is uncomfortable to discuss; either they don't yet trust you enough, or are not sure whether they can share. Either way, the avoided questions could be rephrased and the issue probed again in a next meeting.

    15. Relax. Don't be eager-beaver. You're there to learn, not to get a job or a contract. Your immediate concern is to identify the headache, and be sympathetic.

  7. To these very valuable tips, I add this: ask me a question about myself or my work, and then listen to the answer. Really listen and then respond with a follow-up question, or a comment about my response. Don't simply use my response as a chance to talk about yourself – unless you have a similar experience, and even then, I like you to remember you asked me a question. And definitely don't use the time I'm responding as a time to be formulating your next statement. The people who ask me questions and listen to my responses are the people who engage me, and with whom I want to engage. I'll definitely ask you about yourself, and I hope it will be a reciprocal, fun interaction that can yield future business.

    • I agree with you. The first question that should be asked is “tell me about yourself?”. That is some great advice thank you.

  8. Good post! Lots of great tips!

    Here's how one person managed his fear of public speaking.

    In my recently published pre-teen novel, the main character, Ian, has to undergo some management training. However, he almost backs out when he discovers that public speaking is part of the deal!

    He sticks with it, though and learns an interesting technique from one of his Google searches. It helps him immensely. It's all about how to mingle with people before an event. He tries some of the tips. He helps his new friend, Elise, with some administrative functions prior to class and it gives him an opportunity to chat with some of the other class members. He discovers that they have the same fears as he does. It makes him feel a lot better. And, in the process of going around the room, he feels kind of like a host. It's a real confidence builder!

    All the best!

    Eric Dana Hansen, Author of “IAN, CEO, North Pole”

  9. Twitter is one of the best tools to use for networking. You can connect with people (anywhere in the world) in seconds, establish a brief intelligent conversation, and then you have a networking contact!

    It cannot be stressed enough how important networking really is. The tips in JT's post are extremely helpful.

  10. As a follow-up don't treat your network like a “one night stand.” Communication is key and to keep and maintain your network takes communication. So don't treat your new network member as a “one night stand” – they won't respect you in the morning!

    Remember three things about them including their name!

    Bring business cards (leaving them at home is no longer an excuse) because if you think that they will remember your name and contact information they won't.

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