Here we are in the final week of summer and it is time to gently ease out of your summer torpor and take a few tentative steps toward ramping-up some business development skills—like networking, for example. Networking takes many forms and it is something we do throughout the year, in all sorts of venues. Yet September brings an onslaught of structured business networking opportunities, often in the form of conferences and workshops, making this time of year ripe for a meet & greet reboot.
It is likely that you’ll attend these functions alone and it’s also likely that you will not know anyone in the room, or at least not well enough to “latch on” during the event. You will be on your own; how can you engineer a good outcome? For starters, remember that Freelancers have a standard networking event agenda:
- Get a client.
- Get a referral source or collaborator.
- Get information.
Meeting a potential client is a long shot, but it’s the most important agenda item, nevertheless. Meeting a promising referral source or someone with whom you can collaborate is also a stretch, but the odds are better. Learning something useful, whether from the program speaker or some helpful bit of information you pick up from someone you meet, is a reasonable bet.
So polish up your short-form elevator pitch. Remember to smile and relax and be willing to meet new people. Make note of these easy-to-roll out icebreaker conversation starters that will boost your networking ROI:
- Walk up to someone who is alone, smile and introduce yourself. You’re in the room to network, so make a point to extend yourself. You could meet someone who is worth knowing and at the very least, you’ll make someone feel more comfortable and happy to be there. “Saving” someone is good karma.
- This is my first time attending this seminar. Are you a regular? Showing a bit of vulnerability is both humanizing and courageous. You’ll demonstrate your command of the meet & greet ritual. This opening makes it easy to segue into further conversation.
- I admit I don’t know a lot about what (the sponsoring group) does. What other programs do they put on? With this question, you’ll receive information that will help you evaluate the possibility of deepening your involvement with the host organization.
- That’s interesting. Tell me more. People love talking about themselves. Showing genuine interest is flattering and most of all, validating. The seeds for a good and maybe even mutually beneficial relationship will be planted, even if you don’t encounter that person again for another year or two.
- Let me introduce you to… One of the best ways to position yourself as an influencer, as well as someone who is authentic and generous, is to introduce people who might be able to work together.
- Ask the speaker a good question. Take notes during the presentation and raise your hand during the Q & A. Attendees may seek you out after the talk. Feel free to approach the speaker as well. A good question showcases you as a smart person. Be careful not to hog the microphone.
- Hi, I’m (name). That was a spot-on question you asked of the panelist. What do you think about (related topic)? In this scenario, you approach someone who asked the speaker an insightful question.
- It’s been great meeting you. I see someone who’s on my list to meet and I’m going to take my leave. Thank you for being good to talk to. Your exit strategy.
Have a good Labor Day weekend. Thanks for reading,