Summary: Very few people are at ease striking up a conversation in a room full of strangers. Here are some simple ways to make network meetings and speaking events more productive and fun.
Do you enjoy one-on-one networking, however, the thought of walking into room full of people you don’t know horrifies you? You’re not alone. Yes, even an introverted 1:1 social butterfly, President of the Social Committee in High School, and avid networker knows how you feel. Here are some of my tricks. And they have all worked!
- Registration Volunteer
A great way to network at a conference is to volunteer at the registration desk. Why? You get to say hello to everyone who registers in your line and everyone who registers gets to see you behind the registration table. At the event, you’ll feel more comfortable talking with people because you’ve “met” them already. If those aren’t enough benefits, people will “recognize you” from the registration desk, and be more likely to come talk with you.
- Group Volunteer
Once you join a new association or group, ask the Chair or membership person what volunteer opportunities are available. Take on a small or large task, based on what you like to do, have time to do, or volunteer to do something you do in your business to quietly help you market your business.
- Arrive Early
Always arrive 30 minutes early to get comfortable in the room. Wear your name tag, too. You’ll meet other early attendees and won’t notice the room getting crowded until it’s too late!
- Get Comfortable
When you speak arrive an hour early. Get a feel for the room, pick a place to sit, etc. Feel free to ask that the seating in the room be changed (although many event planners ask speakers how they’d like the room arranged) so that you’re more comfortable speaking. Greet attendees with a big “hello my name is …” Bring name tags or recycle the bottom part of old Manila folders by creating tents and have each person put their name on it to put it on the table in front of them.
- Call First
When you are planning to attend a networking type meeting for the first time, call up whomever you can from the organization. Ask them questions about the group and tips. Find out about the dress code. Is it in jeans, business casual, business, or formal. Then you’ll arrive feeling more comfortable along with “knowing” someone that you can look for when you arrive.
- Brand Your Nametag
Carry a name tag in your glove compartment. Make one for personal use, another for business use. Then people will feel more comfortable walking up to you in meetings.
- Make Your Notes Fun
If you’re speaking or introducing someone, there is nothing wrong with bringing notes to the lecturn. Consider putting them on the back of duplicates of pictures (photography) you’ve taken. Then they won’t stick out so much from the podium (like white paper or index cards do.)
- Elevator Speech
Develop two 30-second commercials (also called elevator speeches or USP – unique selling propositions). I call it a “Business Snapshot” because it’s a quick description of who you work with and the benefits they receive. Create one for personal use, and the other would be for business use. At a recent TeleClass I attended, provided by Jay Levinson of Guerrilla Marketing fame, he suggested creating a 7 word commercial, too.
Practice some opening lines and your handshake before you attend the event. Practice using a mirror and ask your family to let you practice on them, too.
- You’re Human
Remember that everyone in that room is a human being, too. We all put our pants on the same way! As such, each of us has their own fears to deal with… and they might even be the same as yours.
Find other ways to build your confidence, too. Tell me the ones you use below!
© 2011 Elevating Your Business. Maria Marsala, a former Wall Street trader, founded Elevating Your Business to provide focus and accountability to independent accounting and financial professionals seeking to substantially grow their business. EYB provides business planning, management and marketing advising services. She customizes solutions to detect and overcome each client’s unique obstacles, helping them create the business and lifestyle they only imagined possible. Get started today by downloading our Business Evaluator at www.ElevatingYourBusiness.com