First off, can we stop calling it “Networking,” when what we’re doing is socializing?
When we add the element of work, calling it “NetWORKING,” it just doesn’t sound fun anymore. So, if I asked you to join me at an event to socialize, wouldn’t that sound less intimidating?
Now that we are socializing – showing up at an event in order to get something valuable is like planting an apple seed when you’re hungry for a slice of pie. While showing up is crucial, it’s only the very beginning. Being able to make meaningful contributions and benefit from the circle of people you “socialize” with only happens after you’ve built a rapport and a level of trust and respect. But, that takes time and nurturing.
So the basics, go in with the mindset of socializing and bring patience to build genuine relationships. Now that we’ve got those two things out of the way, here are 7 tips from my years socializing.
Let’s get started.
1. New Places with Familiar Faces – If you can, start by going to events where you’ll know people, even if only one. You can look on LinkedIn and Meetup.com at the groups your co-workers or college friends attend. Other easy ways to start are just having coffee with people you’ve met or start by joining a virtual network and interacting online.
2. Prep and Polish – Do the work and dress the part. To prepare, start by reading about what’s going on in the industry or a relevant market. Having even a cursory level of awareness about what’s going on is a great way to prepare for having conversations with people. Polish is being mindful and diligent about the little things. Start with your appearance, then your manners and etiquette. Be quick to introduce new people to the people you’ve just met and don’t interrupt someone mid-story. Smile and nod and you’re off to the races.
3. Getting In and Getting Out – This is where I think most newbies are least comfortable at an event, so here are a couple strategies.
- First, it’s always easier to pick off people not engaged with others to start a conversation. Introduce yourself and ask a question. “Hi, my name is Kevin, what brings you to (name of the event) today?” Seriously, it’s as simple as that. No slick pick-up lines needed.
- Next, it’s always more polite to exit a conversation if you’re not leaving the other person solo. So, pull a passersby into the conversation and make sure you offer a warm introduction to someone looking to join the conversation you just started. You know the look on their face because you just had the same one.
- When it comes to exiting a conversation, remember that leaving on a high note is always better than sticking around long enough for things to get awkward. Upon realizing it’s time to make an exit, offer compliments to those in the group on something you just learned about them and be honest. “It sounds like you’re doing some cool work over at XYZ, Inc. if you think there’s anything I can ever help you with, please reach out. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to see if I can’t meet a couple more people before the keynote starts, Thank you.”
4. Be Interested, Without Trying to Be Interesting – When meeting people for the first time, you’ll make such a better impression on everyone if you can focus on being more interested in them, than trying to be interesting to them. If you’re spending more time telling and selling, you’re playing the short game. It just that simple, ask people questions about themselves that you’re genuinely interested in and allow them to talk. If you’re in sales, try to stay away from asking questions that are clearly self-serving prospect qualifying questions. I know, it’s hard.
5. Give to Get – This one is simple, but hard to do at first. Make it a personal goal at the event to find three people that you can do something for. The more you focus on trying to help people, the more you’ll find yourself on the receiving end. Offer 3 times more than you ask for things and you’re likely to get 10x more than you deserve.
6. Follow-up – Even just a quick note or a text acknowledging your gratitude for having met the person is sufficient. If you’ve offered yourself in service somehow, then follow-up becomes follow-through. If you’re serious about building a rapport with the person, give them a call. You’re more than likely going to get their voicemail, but a call nonetheless will be far more effective at making a great impression.
7. Use the Force – As in social media, fancy tech tools, boomerang your email and nail down a workflow. Connect to the people you’ve met. Put them in groups. Tweet, post and check in at events. Prior to an event, optimistically let your contacts and followers know that you’ll be in attendance and ask who might else be going. If you can be consistent in the ever-changing universe of social media, you’ll realize what’s working and what’s a waste of effort. But, you have to use the tech to support your efforts here.
Keep these 7 things in mind and watch your socializing efforts bring you great relationships in life and business. Remember, you’re planting the seed and you shouldn’t expect pie anytime soon. You’ve got lots of work to do. But, if mindfully tended to, that apple seed becomes a thriving tree that will give you fruit over and over again, so look forward to enjoying your pie.
Kevin Krumm is a managing partner at Objective Paradigm and has more than 15 years of experience in IT recruiting, consulting and business development. He is responsible for driving growth at Objective Paradigm by employing innovation and creativity to deliver value to clients and candidates alike.
Krumm’s experience includes working with clients in tech startups, financial markets, trading firms, consulting and software development. His passion lies with identifying talented people capable of disrupting industries by leveraging technology and creativity. He graduated Rutgers University with a bachelor’s in economics.