Over the past several days, I’ve had the opportunity to meet several people, from presidents of corporations, to really important people like teachers of children with learning disabilities. I’ve had the opportunity to hear about a lot of businesses, and have received a lot of interesting offers in the mix.
But what was really fun was helping people connect with other people. I got the chance to do that a lot. For instance, my friend Brian Conley runs a show called Alive in Baghdad, a video production where he took his own money (maxed his credit card), and flew to Baghdad to give video cameras to people on the ground. He showed them how to be correspondents, and then had them ship video back Stateside to put up as a compelling video production.
I helped him contact with some really nice media names and some investors, and he was out there doing it on his own as well. The goal? Raising money for a trip back. (He still needs help, if you’re interested).
This experience (not just Brian, but the whole networking experience) gave me lots of thoughts I want to share with you for your next opportunity to network. None of them are amazingly new, but you might just want a neat refresher, and a toolkit for your next experience.
- Get THEIR Card– We all think it’s about giving out our business cards, but it’s not. Getting THEIR card is what matters, because then YOU can take action. You can write them, call them, send them a personal note. Giving out your cards is as hit and miss as banner ads.
- Have a pitch ready– My friend, Laura, runs 15 Second Pitch, and she says EVERYONE needs an elevator pitch, not just folks doing a startup. I agree. Having something to tell people when they ask what you’re doing, or what you’re interested in is vital. Without it, why should someone want to talk with you?
- Move around– When you meet someone you like at an event, or if you arrive with a friend, it’s our habit to want to stay put with that person and talk with them the whole time. Tell them you want the chance to say hi to a few new people and maybe see what comes of it. They’ll understand and probably do the same themselves. Then, circle back every now and again to stay friendly.
- Don’t Eye-surf, though– This doesn’t mean when you’re meeting someone new, with their card in your hand, that you’re already scanning the room for your next target. It’s just rude. Someone did it to me at this last event, and I threw his card in the trash. I’m sure he’s connected and had business I could work with, but forget it. I value people, and this person clearly was there to surf the room. Love the one you’re with, they say.
- Keep things brief and uncomplicated– No matter how tricky you think your product, pitch, service, whatever is, it’s not. You can boil it down if you work hard at it. The point of a networking experience isn’t to unload your own personal Bible on someone. It’s to get them interested enough to want to follow up. The point is that there’ll be another meeting. Don’t be coy and don’t throw out half-information like a bad movie trailer. Instead, give someone the easiest possible way to understand what it is you do, and what you’re looking for, and then let THEM decide if it’s worth talking with you further.
- Be fluid in talking about what you need/do/are– The same information doesn’t work the same way for most people. Talk to the person you’re with in their terms, with their needs. I sat next to a lovely couple who were older than me and not as technologically connected, and I told them a little about video podcasting. They got nervous, so I started talking in simpler terms, and gave it to them from THEIR side of the fence. By the end, they were emailing me asking me for advice on which software to get to start their own video podcast.
- Respond immediately to queries and emails and to business cards you receive– When you get home from the networking experience, conference, event, whatever, use that moment to respond. Get in touch and tell the person you enjoyed meeting them, and that you’re hoping to do ______ in the future. Give them a “next action” to think about, and let them respond to you. Just saying that it was great seeing them there means nothing. (Though I do use this trick just to load gmail contacts in when I don’t really have business for a person yet).
I’m not a master networker, and I strongly recommend reading Keith Ferrazzi’s NEVER EAT ALONE, which to me is one of the best of breed books about networking out there. But these things I mentioned have helped me along a real lot over the last few days, so I thought I’d share them with you.