Brush up your networking: Work the room

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: it’s not what you know, but who you know that counts. Which means it’s time to get out there and start meeting some people. In the first entry of this two-part series on networking, I shared advice on how to prepare for the networking event. Now let’s start working the room.

Rule #5:  Stay hydrated. This is not the time to get tipsy. You want to stay on top of the ball, but remain social. There is nothing wrong with having a glass of wine or two but remember to alternate with a glass of water. My personal go-to beverage for networking functions is a white wine spritzer. Made by mixing white wine, Pino Grigio or Chardonnay, with club soda and a lime wedge, the spritzer makes me feel social and keeps me hydrated. We all want to be memorable at networking events, but not as the sloppy drunk in the corner who couldn’t make it through the cocktail hour.

Rule #6:  Hunt by the watering hole. Take a lesson from the animal kingdom. When the female lions set out to take down a BizCardNetworkingwildebeest for their young, where do they go? The watering hole. The lioness patiently stalks her prey at the local stream or pond, where all animals congregate to slurp up needed water. Like the lioness stalking her thirsty prey, you too will take advantage of every person’s need for a beverage. In other words, hover by the bar. When your target approaches to fetch a beverage, you can casually swoop in, arm extended, and make your introduction.

Rule #7:  Go in for the kill. Use your body language to establish an initial connection. Make confident eye contact and square your shoulders to person with whom you’re speaking. Approach confidently, extend your arm for a handshake when you are within striking distance, and simply introduce yourself. Be confident and polite with your introduction. Keep in mind: don’t interrupt an active conversation. I like to look for people on their way to the bar, lingering on the perimeter of the room, or standing solo at a cocktail round.

Rule #8:  Know when to wrap it up. I can’t help but feel bad for those stars at awards shows who really get talking and then are played off because they went too long. Well, we really are just like celebrities — we don’t want to hear Emmy music in the background of our networking conversations. Start the meeting off confidently and end on a strong note. Do not wait for the conversation to dwindle to an awkward pause. Instead, spend enough time with your new contact so that he or she will remember you, and then bail out. Remember to always ask for a business card and offer a clean crisp card of your own. To excuse yourself, you can say “it was such a pleasure to meet you and I really hope to see more of you at future events. Do you have a business card? I would love to keep in touch.”

Rule #9:  Follow-up. Always follow-up after making a new contact. Depending on the nature of your interaction, a LinkedIn connection may suffice or you may want to send a formal note. In either case, your goal is to strengthen the relationship and look for reasons to keep in touch. If you do choose to send a note, try to pick out some unique part of the conversation and highlight it to job the person’s memory. For example, “It was great getting to commiserate with you about the Giants horrific season.” Not only does this remind them that you shared a mutual interest, but it gives a little insight into who you are as a person.

Networking is an art, not a science. There is definitely not a one-size fits all formulaic approach, but knowing these basic rules are enough to get started. The sooner you jump in, the sooner you can develop a style that suits your personality.

Do you have any networking tips to share? Add them in the comments section. And if you missed our post on Networking Prep 101, you can check it out right here


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