Conference2013 is the year of the networker.  Stop groaning.  I know what’s best.  Once we get that general premise down, we’re good to go.  What’s that, you say?  You don’t like networking?  While I’m sure you’re a marvelously unique individual, you are hardly alone in that sentiment.

Why do so many of us hate networking?  Networking has a reputation as a manipulative, self-serving, sleazy endeavor involving hard-sells and soft cheese.  However real networking builds lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.  Quality networking is about forging meaningful connections one person at a time.  Nothing cheesy about it.

People who hate networking simultaneously believe they are bad networkers.  That is because they have not yet read this article!  Luckily, you can finally accomplish your Big Goal through the immediate application of the following ten stellar tips.

  1. Play Your StrengthsDon’t fight against your naturally loveable disposition.  Inauthentic behavior makes networking backfire, causing you to blow out faster than a sixteen-wheeler on hot summer asphalt.  Transform presumed networking liabilities into assets.  Don’t like to blab, prefer to soak it in?  Ask thoughtful questions and really listen.  Your popularity will soar and you never need to scrounge around for conversation starters again.
  2. Establish GoalsWhy are you attending an event? Set clear, measurable goals such as meeting two new people. Be realistic. The best goals are challenging yet achievable.  What will make the event a success for you?
  3. VolunteerArrange in advance to help out. Many networking-haters are most comfortable when in a designated, structured role. Working the event provides you with a specific reason to engage with others, rather than poking around for small talk.
  4. Arrive earlyIt is better to enter a room with a few people than one with a crowd packed close together.  Gatherings are cozier near the beginning and participants more accessible.
  5. Be coolBe positive, helpful, gracious and upbeat.  Maintain eye contact and smile.  It is impossible to predict who the ‘right people’ turn out to be, so decide whoever you are facing is the right person for you to be meeting at that moment.
  6. Get in LineLines provide a fine alternative to standing around alone. There are only two people nearby – the person behind and in front of you. Ask about work, origin of an interesting name, or what brought them to the event. Completing your time in-line provides a built-in closer—exchange contact information and be on your way.
  7. Write it DownNote pertinent facts on business cards of new acquaintances. Do not overestimate your future memory capacity.  Include:
    • Name, with pronunciation hints
    • Event location and date
    • Personal facts (family, birthday, interests . . .)
    • Brief conversation summary
    • Intended follow-up

    Jotting notes also provides time away from continual interaction.

  8. Do LessPrioritize your time, manage your energy.  Shining bright at one event is smarter than straggling into every networking opportunity crossing your path.  Grant yourself mini-recharge breaks at programmes.  Head outside for a breather, step away to refresh, decompress on a brisk walk, or check messages.  Let go of what you should do; free yourself up to what appeals.  You will be more appealing to others in the process.
  9. End GracefullyNever allow a conversation to fizzle out past its prime. You also want to avoid causing others to feel trapped talking with you. Try:
    • May I have your card? It was great meeting you.
    • Have you met [colleague passing by]?
    • I’ve enjoyed our conversation! Thank you.
    • I promised myself I’d circulate—I better walk around.
    • I’m sure you want to talk with others; I won’t hold you up.

    If you claim to be headed somewhere, really go.

  10. Follow upThe time you invest in networking goes swirling down the proverbial drain without follow up.  Write a personal note within 48 hours, while you still remember each other.  Be useful – include an article link, provide relevant information, or connect your new acquaintance with a valuable resource.  Want to really stand out? Mail a handwritten note.

Network on your own terms.  As a previous networking-hater myself, I know you can exceed your wildest networking expectations…and have a blast in the process.

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