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5 Steps To Conquer Any Networking Event

5 Steps To Conquer Any Networking Event

    Let’s say you’re single, lonely, and desperate for a date. That, of course, isn’t actually the case so you’ll need to use your imagination for a moment. Now imagine that you’ve been invited on a group date with the promise that you’ll definitely hit it off with someone special. The organizer isn’t really sure about that but a match seems likely because more than 500 single, lonely, and fairly desperate people will also be on the group date. It sounds like a sure thing, right?

    Wrong.

    When faced with so much opportunity, your first instinct will be to hunker down with a few friendly faces and wait for the end of the evening. Instead of making something amazing happen, you’ll take the safe route. Unfortunately, the safe route often means you go home alone with a story about the one that got away.

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    Unfortunately, most conferences and networking events end just like that. Now what if I told you there was a different way? What if I told you that, continuing the group date example, I could show you how to do background checks on all the attendees and see what they look like in the buff before ever stepping into the same room? You’d be interested, of course!

    While I won’t tell you how to find compromising photos of everyone attending your next networking event, I’ll give you something just as valuable. Here are five steps you can implement and build upon to make the most of your next networking event:

    1. Establish Event-Specific Goals

    Walking into a networking event or conference without a plan is, barring a miracle, a waste of your time. Without a plan you’ll bounce from event to event and float toward the people you already know. But not this time! This time you’re going to establish real goals for what you’ll get from a specific event.

    For example, a small business owner might attend a local meetup of social media types hoping to expand her network with some web-savvy marketers. Instead of saying, “this meetup will give me the chance to make business contacts” she’ll have a specific outcome in mind and won’t waste time on the wrong people.

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    2. Identify & Research Targets

    Now that you’ve established goals for your event experience, it’s time to do some legwork and figure out who will help you reach those goals. Most conferences and meetups have a list of attendees published in a public space, usually online. Smaller events might just have an Eventbrite homepage while big conferences will often maintain a separate list. Many events use hashtags on Twitter so people attending the event can connect beforehand and during the event. Do you see where all this is going?

    The idea is to identify as many event attendees as possible and extract a group of people you most want to connect with. Once you have a list of people attending the event, weed your list based on how certain people could possibly help you reach your goals for the event. If you want to connect with web developers, you’ll not have florists or fishing coaches on your list.

    Once you’ve identified the people you think are worth pursuing at a glance, it’s time to do some research. This might seem tedious and boring, but it’s needed if you want to really get the most of your event. While most of the attendees will stroll into the event with a devil-may-care attitude, you’ll have a short list of targets whose blogs you’ve read, tweets you’ve followed, and major interests you’ve identified. You have a definite advantage!

    3. Use An Event Card

    An event card is exactly like an old school dance card. But instead of scheduling dances with pretty people, you’ll be marking off successful connections with your targets. The simplest version is a plain list of names. That’ll work if you have an amazing memory and ability to place lots of new names with faces. But most of us aren’t so gifted.

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    I prefer to make small cards that include a name, photo, major interests, a thought I had after reading one of my target’s recent blog posts, and a few people also at the event I think they’d enjoy meeting. Putting the time into researching a contact before meeting them has never, ever turned out to be a waste of time for me. It’s an act of faith that has always returned far more than I invested.

    If you want to really do things nicely, add your target contact’s image and information to a special contacts list on your smart phone. That way, when you do get contact information from your new friend, you won’t have to enter anything but their number or email address. If they ask you about why you had their information programmed into your phone already, just tell them you’re a big fan and had planned on meeting them. After all, you are and you did! =)

    4. Establish Your Presence

    There are a few things you should keep in mind as you work to establish your presence as a worthwhile connection to your targets:

    • Whenever you have the chance, show your target that you are somebody worth knowing. If your research revealed that one of your intended contacts has chatted online with another contact, try to be the one to introduce them to each other. (It only takes a moment or two to figure out who your target likes to chat with on a site like Twitter but hasn’t met yet.)
    • As with romantic relationships, dinner is a bigger deal than drinks or a quick chat. If you get the chance to join a prime target for a meal, do it!
    • Try to get contact information for your target that may not be immediately available online. A lot of people have email addresses they give out online or use to sign up for new services. You don’t want that one. You want the one they actually check. Barring a good email address, a friend request via Facebook will usually do just as well. People throw all their personal info there and you’ll have no trouble getting in touch with them!

    When in doubt, friendly conversation and a real effort to listen will at least save you from being labeled as obnoxious!

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    5. Follow Up

    It doesn’t matter how much research you do or how well you woo your targets if you fail to follow up with them after the event! A good rule is to make sure you’ve contacted your targets within 3 days of meeting. Calling is probably too much unless you really hit it off and have already agreed to meet up. Otherwise, a brief email saying hello and reminding your target of the interesting conversation you had, etc. should do the trick.

    Once your target responds, you’re set to continue your relationship and eventually enjoy the fruits of your networking labors! A bit of planning, some basic research, and the will to follow through are the only things standing between you and a robust network of interesting people!

    How could I be such a cold-hearted monster and turn a gathering of wonderful people into a game of numbers and value exchanges? In practice, I don’t always. But just as it’s easier to explain the workings of an automobile engine once it’s been removed from the car, social networking is best explained in unadulterated terms.

    Do you have any questions or a tip of your own to add?

    Image: source

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    Seth Simonds

    Seth writes about lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on December 4, 2020

    How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

    How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

    We all crave constructive feedback. We want to know not just what we’re doing well but also what we could be doing better.

    However, giving and getting constructive feedback isn’t just some feel-good exercise. In the workplace, it’s part and parcel of how companies grow.

    Let’s take a closer look.

    Why Constructive Feedback Is Critical

    A culture of feedback benefits individuals on a team and the team itself. Constructive feedback has the following effects:

    Builds Workers’ Skills

    Think about the last time you made a mistake. Did you come away from it feeling attacked—a key marker of destructive feedback—or did you feel like you learned something new?

    Every time a team member learns something, they become more valuable to the business. The range of tasks they can tackle increases. Over time, they make fewer mistakes, require less supervision, and become more willing to ask for help.

    Boosts Employee Loyalty

    Constructive feedback is a two-way street. Employees want to receive it, but they also want the feedback they give to be taken seriously.

    If employees see their constructive feedback ignored, they may take it to mean they aren’t a valued part of the team. Nine in ten employees say they’d be more likely to stick with a company that takes and acts on their feedback.[1]

    Strengthens Team Bonds

    Without trust, teams cannot function. Constructive feedback builds trust because it shows that the giver of the feedback cares about the success of the recipient.

    However, for constructive feedback to work its magic, both sides have to assume good intentions. Those giving the feedback must genuinely want to help, and those getting it has to assume that the goal is to build them up rather than to tear them down.

    Promotes Mentorship

    There’s nothing wrong with a single round of constructive feedback. But when it really makes a difference is when it’s repeated—continuous, constructive feedback is the bread and butter of mentorship.

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    Be the change you want to see on your team. Give constructive feedback often and authentically, and others will naturally start to see you as a mentor.

    Clearly, constructive feedback is something most teams could use more of. But how do you actually give it?

    How to Give Constructive Feedback

    Giving constructive feedback is tricky. Get it wrong, and your message might fall on deaf ears. Get it really wrong, and you could sow distrust or create tension across the entire team.

    Here are ways to give constructive feedback properly:

    1. Listen First

    Often, what you perceive as a mistake is a decision someone made for a good reason. Listening is the key to effective communication.

    Seek to understand: how did the other person arrive at her choice or action?

    You could say:

    • “Help me understand your thought process.”
    • “What led you to take that step?”
    • “What’s your perspective?”

    2. Lead With a Compliment

    In school, you might have heard it called the “sandwich method”: Before (and ideally, after) giving difficult feedback, share a compliment. That signals to the recipient that you value their work.

    You could say:

    • “Great design. Can we see it with a different font?”
    • “Good thinking. What if we tried this?”

    3. Address the Wider Team

    Sometimes, constructive feedback is best given indirectly. If your comment could benefit others on the team, or if the person whom you’re really speaking to might take it the wrong way, try communicating your feedback in a group setting.

    You could say:

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    • “Let’s think through this together.”
    • “I want everyone to see . . .”

    4. Ask How You Can Help

    When you’re on a team, you’re all in it together. When a mistake happens, you have to realize that everyone—not just the person who made it—has a role in fixing it. Give constructive feedback in a way that recognizes this dynamic.

    You could say:

    • “What can I do to support you?”
    • “How can I make your life easier?
    • “Is there something I could do better?”

    5. Give Examples

    To be useful, constructive feedback needs to be concrete. Illustrate your advice by pointing to an ideal.

    What should the end result look like? Who has the process down pat?

    You could say:

    • “I wanted to show you . . .”
    • “This is what I’d like yours to look like.”
    • “This is a perfect example.”
    • “My ideal is . . .”

    6. Be Empathetic

    Even when there’s trust in a team, mistakes can be embarrassing. Lessons can be hard to swallow. Constructive feedback is more likely to be taken to heart when it’s accompanied by empathy.

    You could say:

    • “I know it’s hard to hear.”
    • “I understand.”
    • “I’m sorry.”

    7. Smile

    Management consultancies like Credera teach that communication is a combination of the content, delivery, and presentation.[2] When giving constructive feedback, make sure your body language is as positive as your message. Your smile is one of your best tools for getting constructive feedback to connect.

    8. Be Grateful

    When you’re frustrated about a mistake, it can be tough to see the silver lining. But you don’t have to look that hard. Every constructive feedback session is a chance for the team to get better and grow closer.

    You could say:

    • “I’m glad you brought this up.”
    • “We all learned an important lesson.”
    • “I love improving as a team.”

    9. Avoid Accusations

    Giving tough feedback without losing your cool is one of the toughest parts of working with others. Great leaders and project managers get upset at the mistake, not the person who made it.[3]

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    You could say:

    • “We all make mistakes.”
    • “I know you did your best.”
    • “I don’t hold it against you.”

    10. Take Responsibility

    More often than not, mistakes are made because of miscommunications Recognize your own role in them.

    Could you have been clearer in your directions? Did you set the other person up for success?

    You could say:

    • “I should have . . .”
    • “Next time, I’ll . . .”

    11. Time it Right

    Constructive feedback shouldn’t catch people off guard. Don’t give it while everyone is packing up to leave work. Don’t interrupt a good lunch conversation.

    If in doubt, ask the person to whom you’re giving feedback to schedule the session themselves. Encourage them to choose a time when they’ll be able to focus on the conversation rather than their next task.

    12. Use Their Name

    When you hear your name, your ears naturally perk up. Use that when giving constructive feedback. Just remember that constructive feedback should be personalized, not personal.

    You could say:

    • “Bob, I wanted to chat through . . .”
    • “Does that make sense, Jesse?”

    13. Suggest, Don’t Order

    When you give constructive feedback, it’s important not to be adversarial. The very act of giving feedback recognizes that the person who made the mistake had a choice—and when the situation comes up again, they’ll be able to choose differently.

    You could say:

    • “Next time, I suggest . . .”
    • “Try it this way.”
    • “Are you on board with that?”

    14. Be Brief

    Even when given empathetically, constructive feedback can be uncomfortable to receive. Get your message across, make sure there are no hard feelings, and move on.

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    One exception? If the feedback isn’t understood, make clear that you have plenty of time for questions. Rushing through what’s clearly an open conversation is disrespectful and discouraging.

    15. Follow Up

    Not all lessons are learned immediately. After giving a member of your team constructive feedback, follow it up with an email. Make sure you’re just as respectful and helpful in your written feedback as you are on your verbal communication.

    You could say:

    • “I wanted to recap . . .”
    • “Thanks for chatting with me about . . .”
    • “Did that make sense?”

    16. Expect Improvement

    Although you should always deliver constructive feedback in a supportive manner, you should also expect to see it implemented. If it’s a long-term issue, set milestones.

    By what date would you like to see what sort of improvement? How will you measure that improvement?

    You could say:

    • “I’d like to see you . . .”
    • “Let’s check back in after . . .”
    • “I’m expecting you to . . .”
    • “Let’s make a dent in that by . . .”

    17. Give Second Chances

    Giving feedback, no matter how constructive, is a waste of time if you don’t provide an opportunity to implement it. Don’t set up a “gotcha” moment, but do tap the recipient of your feedback next time a similar task comes up.

    You could say:

    • “I know you’ll rock it next time.”
    • “I’d love to see you try again.”
    • “Let’s give it another go.”

    Final Thoughts

    Constructive feedback is not an easy nut to crack. If you don’t give it well, then maybe it’s time to get some. Never be afraid to ask.

    More on Constructive Feedback

    Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

    Reference

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