Guest Blogger: Gary Pines
We attend events: association meetings, conferences, seminars, and charity dinners. We go for many reasons, and high among them is to meet more people whom we can add to our network be they prospective clients or influencers
Too often, after leaving the event, we realize we have failed to come away with quality new contacts or reasons to follow up with those we did meet. Why does this happen? Often because we don’t prepare sufficiently. At other times, it’s because we simply go with the flow of the meeting instead of actively seeking out those we want to meet. Like any other performing art, working a room requires practicing the basics, again and again. Basics, in this context, aren’t just for beginners. Professional performers review them, too.
I have coached groups of professionals on how to try to get the most out of an event they are about to attend. One group was determined to get a return for time and money they would expend on an evening event. They arrived early, met the staff and even helped set up. They met the other early attendees who had no one else to speak with. As they moved on from attendee to attendee, they worked it like professionals, especially compared to their competitors who were standing around talking to each other. And it all paid off. By the end of the event, each professional had:
· three to five quality people to follow-up with,
· gained a lot of confidence and comfort with the process, and
· had fun doing it.
So what should you do to get this kind of result:
- Arrive early. Meet the staff and ask if you can help them. You may want to follow-up with them. Plus, they can introduce you to people you want to meet and brief you on logistics of the evening. Often, name tags are arrayed on a table, so you can see who else is attending.
- Start working the room early. Meet the first attendees. They will have no one else to talk to, so that you have a better chance to get to know them than you will those who come late.
- Break into conversations in a professional manner.
a) Look for these opportunities:
1) The Lone Ranger: Anyone standing by himself is usually delighted when someone approaches to talk.
2) The V Stance: When two people are talking and have opened a path by forming a “V” with their bodies, they are asking for you to come and join them.
b) Try these techniques:
1) Make Eye Contact: Look people in the eye as you walk by. If they respond with eye contact even briefly, it means you can begin a conversation.
2) Get in Line: Find a line, almost any line, and get in it. Whether it’s the sign-in line, the line to the bar or to the buffet, the people immediately in front and in back of you will gladly talk.
3) Stand Near the Entrance: Stand by the entrance where everyone comes in, have a smile on your face and many people will talk with you.
4) Break Bread: Once seated, talk with the people on either side of you, and try to get the whole table into a conversation. If it is a buffet, you can of then move to a different table for each course. (Also, see posting, Three Ways to Get a Good Seat.)
3) Ask questions: Start a conversation with a question, or with a short statement immediately followed by a question: “What brings you to this great event.” or “I’m John Smith and have come by to meet you. I was hoping you could tell me a little about . . .” or “Do you know much about the guest speaker?” Continue to ask question with an eye to learning about the other people. Learn about them!
4) Determine follow-ups: While talking with people, determine whom you would want to follow-up with. Listen intently to these people, listening especially for some excuse to follow up with them. Then exchange cards and comment on continuing the conversation at another time.
So … prepare and be proactive.
You invest a lot of your time to attend at event, so work it hard to get a decent return on that investment.