I had the pleasure of hearing Lorraine Ball speak at a local conference at the end of March. She was so engaging and had a very practical approach to networking. Here are some tips from the expert…
Nuts & Bolts of the Introduction
- Firm handshake and eye contact goes a long way. Try to remember names; this will impress the others you meet when it comes to ending the conversation.
- Give what you want to get (e.g. “Hi I’m Karen from IPFW” will in turn give you his/her first name and where they work)
- You have 15 seconds to introduce yourself before the other person gets bored, starts looking for someone else to talk to, or begins to make a visual to-do list in their mind.
- Treat it like a tennis match and volley. Remember to ask “What do you do?” or “Tell me more about yourself.”
- Listen to the other person. Identify people with whom you want to have longer conversations and who you should meet.
- Conversation starters for each gender: Females – comment on clothing/jewelry; Males – comment on recent sports event… DON’T FORGET TO BRIDGE THE TOPIC!
- If you can’t make the bridge from an unrelated topic, like clothes or sports, then DON’T GO THERE!
- Be careful not to get stuck in a conversation that won’t benefit you or the person you’re speaking with.
- Try a simple bridge phrase like: “… and what do you do?”
- Sometimes it’s hard to end a conversation, but it’s necessary for you to continue networking and meeting the people that would most benefit you, and by meeting you.
- Try some of these enders:
“I enjoyed talking to you…” then step backwards. Most people will catch onto this nonverbal cue and follow your lead.
“I would love to talk with you further, can I have your contact information?” But, only ask for contact info if you plan on following up.
“I’ve taken up enough of your time, there’s a lot of other people I’m sure you’ll want to meet.”
- Try the Hand-Off method of ending a conversation. If you know someone in the room that should meet this person, then pass them on to make a good connection.
- Receiving Business Cards: Treat this card with respect and take a little time to view it in front of the owner. It’s your last chance to make the other person feel special by commenting on the card. Comment on things like the logo, style, their job title, etc.
Working the Room
- Position yourself just to the right of the entrance. Most people will gravitate to the right and work the room in a counter-clockwise fashion. Not convinced? Picture your local grocery store and how it moves customers to the right when you first enter.
- Try another route. If you don’t want to remain stationary, then try walking to the left and continue in a clockwise fashion. You’ll meet everyone on your way around because they’re walking towards you!
- Position yourself in the person’s line of sight. Pay attention to that person’s body language. If he/she acknowledges you with eye contact, a head nod, or even a verbal hello then it’s your opportunity to enter the conversation.
- If you’re being ignored even after trying the previous option, then move on to another person. That nonverbal is telling you that he/she cannot or does not want to be interrupted at the moment. Maybe he/she will open up later and you can speak to him/her without causing negative emotions.
After the Networking
Karen is a Career Counselor and Internship Coordinator at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). At IPFW she assists students in finding internships, coordinates and assists with campus-wide events, teaches a Career Planning course, and meets with students individually to assist them with all aspects of career development. Connect with Karen via LinkedIn or Twitter.