How to network in an event?
“A question most of us remember when we are attending an event.”
In the past 10 years, I have attended hundreds of events (like some of you reading this). Some have been draining and seemed like a waste of time, while in some I have managed to crack a deal or two. I am in no way an authority on how to network, but I think I have a reasonable hang on how to do it right, and how to maximize on the limited time, which most of us have, while attending an event; as they say, experience is the best teacher. So here are my two bits, please feel free to add yours.
1. Be very clear why you want to attend an event. What do you want to achieve or get out of it? It can be as specific as meeting with so-and-so or non-specific like just to get inspired and be in the energetic company of doers. Having a clear objective is a sure shot way to getting what you want. You know what you are going after.
An example that can aptly sum up the importance of focus is the following lines from ‘Alice in Wonderland’:
"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?' said Alice.
That depends on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.
'I don't much care where,’ said Alice.
'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat."
2. How prepared are you to attend an event? Do you have your business card ready? Another big question is, is your business card telling a great /different story? I recently attended an event and came back with 40 cards. Am sorry to say but most of the cards failed to impress, because they were all so similar. If you are an app development company, how is your card telling your story? After all, once the noisy event is over, you will only have your calling card as your reminder. You want the prospect to call you back and give you a meeting. Is your card giving you the extra push for the same? Please think about it. A business card is a small but an effective strategy since the early days. As entrepreneurs, we have to sell all the time, and what better occasion than an event with diverse people and opportunities? And let’s not forget it’s always a great conversation starter. Try it.
3. How are you converting leads for yourself in an event? Let’s not forget that people are more committed to their own ideas than your ideas. They are trying to achieve their objectives as you are, from the event. The smartest people I have seen turn their own ideas into the idea of the person they are pitching to, selling to or meeting. How do you do that? By listening to people; actually, by genuinely listening to what they are saying. You will be surprised how easily you can pitch in an event where everyone is so open to anything and anyone. You can simply stand out by being a good listener. Listening will arm you with the right ammunition of aligning your objective with that of your target prospect.
4. Make yourself stand out. How? Practice. As the legendary Dale Carnegie once said, “There are always three speeches for every one you actually gave: the one you practiced, the one you gave and the one you wish you gave.” Practice. Practice your pitch, talk, conversation openers, one-liners... you never know how handy it will be. Soon, this will come naturally. Standing out in a crowd has to be practiced. Nobody is born with it. I especially admire Deep Kalra. If you talk to him in an event, you know he is talking to you and is giving you his full, undivided attention. He does not seem distracted and you know he is not faking it. He seems genuinely interested in you. If he has met you once earlier, he will remember your name and something about you. He is invested in others whom he is talking to. Naturally, the others get invested in him.
5. Ignore the extra-confident, over opinionated and the always-in-a-group people, who seem to know it all. Their extra confidence can be discouraging, especially if you are a lone ranger in a big party. Walk confidently with a smile. Trust me a big smile will get you through most people. Yes. Even a Ted talk, talks about it!
6. Don't praise a speaker like everyone does. After a speaker has given a talk, I see everyone flocking to the speaker with the same story, ‘you were brilliant on stage’. Be different. Say something like, ‘I totally loved what you said but don't you think the problem is actually much deeper and it requires individual answers?’ Don't try this until and unless you are very sure you have something genuinely different to add. It can get you the right attention (trust me on that) but can surely backfire too.
7. Sure-shot NOs
- Don't look around while you are talking to someone. I clearly remember this entrepreneur at an AWS event who was talking to me and shaking hand and as soon as he saw a ‘big’ guy (don't want to name here), he just forgot me and ran away to talk to the other guy. I had my hand out and felt pretty foolish. Somehow I could never respect this guy again, he reminded me of my classmate in college who chased only the rich and famous.
- Don't speak too much. Many a times we are nervous or we take someone's interest as a welcome sign to go on. Please, please keep your conversation simple, crisp and to the point. Ask it out. You will be surprised how you might just get it.
-Ask shamelessly. At the most, you will get a no, but please ask. And that brings me to the first point, be clear in what you want, you might just get exactly that.
Happy networking. Tell me what worked and what did not. Waiting to hear.