1. Before you go to the event, set a goal of how many people you would like to meet. Keep this number low. Remember its not quantity, its about quality. You want to meet the right people who can help you or you can help them. Yes its great to meet 50 people, but lets be honest, do you have time to follow up with all of them? No probably not. Better to say 3-5 people and then follow up. (That will be another blog post)
2. Research. See if you can research something about the group that is meeting. Are you going to a charity event? A business function? With these details you will already have something in common with the people you are meeting. You can use this as your opening question. You have found the common ground, now use it. Ask them how they became interested in such and such charity. What do they like most about giving back to this organization? How has this business network helped them? How did they get introduced to this organization?
3. You are not trying to sell them during this initial meeting. Relax, the pressure is off. All you are trying to do is see if there is enough of a connection to meet again later for a longer conversation.
4. Look for the person who is standing alone. More than likely they are just as scared and nervous as you are, They will be relieved when you start talking to them. Just ask simple questions about them. People love to talk about themselves.
5. When you are getting ready to wrap up the conversation ask them if they might be able to introduce you to someone in the room they know. Sometimes they will, sometimes they wont. But it never hurts to ask. Before you leave ask them if you may have a business card. Be sure and let them know that is was nice to meet them and you would like to follow up at a later date with a longer meeting. Be sure and hand them one of your cards. If you are too nervous to ask for the follow up meeting, no worries. Simply call or email them the next day.
6. Be sure and write a few notes on the back of their card or on some post it notes. These are personal things that you will mention in future meetings.
Networking is personal, it is about building relationships. It is not about making a quick sale and moving on. Everyone gets nervous, with some practice this does get easier. Remember to breath and try to have some fun.
Originally published in the Democrat & Chronicle on November 14th, 2014.