Career Navigation: Effective Tips on Strategic Connecting at Events

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Whether we seek out events to attend or try to avoid them, they are part of our lives in one way or another. We gather socially, professionally, for business development, etc. Regardless of your position, you are taking your time to attend, so use the time wisely and enjoy yourself. Here are some tips to help you build relationships and gain real results from your next event.

BE A CONNECTOR

Are you known as a connector? When you attend events, who do you like to be around? Is it the stick-in-the-mud who obviously does not want to be there? Chances are no, you enjoy being around someone who is interested. No matter the event, whether you are trying to gain support with your board, your executive team, among your staff, persuade a prospect or customer to make a purchase, or deliver an A+ presentation, the starting point is always connecting with the individual.

Here are five key ways to connect:

No. 1 – Project a positive presence. A smile and an upbeat comment can make all the difference in those first few seconds. When someone asks how you’re doing, do you simply say, “Fine” or do you say, “Excellent!” Even a one word response sets a tone or makes the difference.

No. 2 – Be the first to reach out. Rather than waiting for others to take the initiative, you be the first to reach out. When you walk into a room of strangers, pretend you’re the host. Greet people, introduce yourself and introduce people to each other.

No. 3 – Communicate with care. Keep other’s feelings in mind when you’re making a comment that they might take personally.

No. 4 – Hear people out. Remember, the key conversational skill is not talking, but asking questions and listening to the answers.

No. 5 – Eliminate your need to be right. It’s not a contest. You don’t win points for always being right.

BUILD RELATIONSHIP

Once you have made an initial connection, the next step is to build relationships. Look for a couple of people who you want to get to know a bit more. Stay open and curious as to whom you may build that relationship with as you might be surprised to discover it is not with whom you first expect.

Here are a few tips on how to find and build relationships at an event:

No. 1 – Set a goal. Like every business effort, you should have a goal. For example, you’re going to meet five new people and invite them to coffee. Identify your goal before you arrive at your event. You can do this for every event, including family and friend events.

No. 2 – Arrive early and think of yourself as the host. Greet people when they arrive. They will have more energy at this point and be more likely to remember you.

No. 3 – Work the room. Although it might be more fun and comfortable to hang out with those you already know, don’t spend all your time with friends or with any single individual. Move around and see who is in the room.

No. 4 – Ask questions of value. If you don’t know what to talk about or how to enter a conversation, you can ask, “What brings you to this event?” Or, “What is a good contact for you?” Questions such as this can help you figure out how or if you can help them – even if it is by introducing them to someone else in the room.

No. 5 – Bring your business cards. Don’t ever be caught saying, “I’m out of cards.” You never know when you’ll meet the next breakthrough prospect for your business, which goes to demonstrating preparedness, interest and the expectation to engage. Make it easy for people to be in touch with you after the event.

FOLLOW UP

Finally, there is no point in attending a social or networking event unless you’ve got a plan to follow up and implement that plan almost immediately after the event. It’s better to go to one event a month and really follow up on the new individuals you met than to attend 10 events without any follow up.

Here are five ways to create great results by following up on events:

No. 1 – Follow up quickly. Don’t bother going to an event if you’re not going to follow up quickly. A good rule of thumb is to enter their contact info into your system and send them a LinkedIn connect, an email or a handwritten note within 24 hours of the original event.

No. 2 – Connect through social media. Be sure to personalize the invitation reminding them that, “I enjoyed meeting you last night at the ABC event and sent you an email about the coffee we wanted to schedule.”

No. 3 – Follow up coffee or lunch. Set it up instead of just talking about it. Also remember, if you invite them to coffee or lunch, you should pick up the tab.

No. 4 – Schedule next actions before you leave the table. Regardless of what the next action is, see if you can get your calendars out and schedule it before you conclude your coffee or lunch.

No. 5 – Create follow-up time on your weekly calendar. Use your running list or calendaring plan of key individuals you’ve met and schedule them for follow-up in the appropriate time frame. Depending on the conversation, you may follow up weekly or annually. Scheduling it into your system immediately will help you stay on top of actions while freeing your head space for current activities.

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