No matter what type of networking event you attend, there are 3 key people you should make it your business to meet and talk to before you crumble up that "Hello My Name Is..." sticker. Who are they? Modern Manners Guy explains.
A while back, I did an episode called Proper Networking Etiquette in which I discussed strategies for navigating a networking event - and of course, some of the mistakes people often make. Hanging out against a wall nursing a drink, spending the entire time with eyes glued to your smartphone, and telling anyone who's willing to listen, “Look at me! I’m the CEO of Everything!” are great examples of what not to do.
But after observing quite a lot of these networking faux pas, I discovered that the reason these mistakes happen is because people don’t set proper goals for the event. I'm going to help you fix that.
Regardless of the size or type of networking event, there are 3 key people you should make it your business to meet and talk to. So before you grab your “Hello My Name Is…” tag, check out my top 3 Quick and Dirty Tips for who to meet at a networking event:
Person #1: The Host/Hostess
At a networking event, the host/hostess (or party planner) is like the cool kid in high school who always has the scoop on where the hot party will be on the weekend. They may not know everyone in attendance, but everyone in the room knows them. And whether or not you do, you should always make an attempt to introduce yourself. Whether this conversation is short or long, it’s crucial you get face time with the host/hostess.
The host/hostess is what bestselling author, Malcom Gladwell calls a "connector." In his book, The Tipping Point, he writes:
“Connectors are the people in a community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions.”
And when it comes to networking, the connector is the person you need to make your new best friend. Introduce yourself, get their card, email them the next day (to thank them and ask about future events), and of course, always stay on their radar. Chances are if you need a connection, they can assist.
Person #2: Your Buddy
It’s always easier to go to a networking event knowing someone. Maybe you go with a colleague or a friend who is in the same industry. In either case, when you find someone you know and can chat with, it calms your nerves right away. And if you don't have a buddy to go with, please don’t use booze to calm your nerves. Never good.
Having a friend to talk with can make you look comfortable and easygoing - as if you go these types of events all the time. And who wouldn't want to talk a person like that? Get where I'm going here, folks? Other people will notice that you are comfortable and that is always attractive. As well, the buddy may know another person at the event who you can be introduced to, and even do business with. The “Buddy System” – when done properly – will work like a domino effect, causing one person to meet another, and another, and another. The next thing you know, you have a small gathering of like-minded people, all seeking to make connections. And that's always a good thing.
Person #3: The Suit
First, let me say, you should never judge a book by its cover. For one, it’s rude to assume something of someone by how they look. And secondly, looks can be deceiving.
I’ve been in situations where the richest, smartest person in the room looks like they've been living under a rock for the past decade. However, at every networking event you will see the person I like to call, “The Suit.” The Suit – man or woman – is the sharp-dressed, smooth-talking, networking event regular who hands out business cards like it’s Pez. They may even say, “Call me, I’ll get you a good deal,” regardless of whether or not you’re in the market for whatever they’re selling.
Now, as sleazy as the The Suit may appear, and as grandiose as their stories of success and/or wealth may be, they do know a lot of people. So kick up a conversation, turn on the charm, and you never know what will happen.
I delve a lot more into the best ways to navigate networking events and other aspects of the professional world in my new book Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career. It's available for now as a paperback, ebook, and even as an audiobook, read by me!
Do you have a great story about how you met people at a networking event? Post all the details in the comment section. As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.