I’m an introvert. A hedgehog who likes to curl up in a ball when faced with new or large crowds. For most everyone who meets me the first, second or even third time, that would be hard to believe. I will reluctantly be part of a crowd but prefer one-on-one. Speaking in front of a large audience doesn’t bother me, but I truly get excited to dig deep into the issue and do background research all day. I will volunteer to help in the kitchen at friends’ parties because I can mix and mingle while picking up dirty dishes. No one wants to talk too long to the person with dirty dishes!
When faced with the important job of networking in large or small groups, I remember a few tips that help me make it through the evening, thus avoiding my inner hedgehog and learning some very interesting things about the people around me.
- Don’t be afraid to ask people about themselves. We all like to share information if guided in the right direction. After the introductions, I like to ask, “What is the most challenging thing about your job” or “What are you reading now?” These questions will drive out some interesting conversation and possible opportunity for in-depth conversations later.
- On business trips, I collect business cards. If they don’t have a business card, I physically write their name and business on paper. Once I get to my hotel room, I jot down something about the person and as soon as possible, usually that night, I send off a quick note via the good old-fashioned postal service.
- If possible, I look up the attendee list prior to going to a conference. Sometimes I must call ahead and ask for it. If I’m speaking at the event, this is an easier request than if I’m just an attendee. At a minimum, I look at the other speakers and determine what their expertise is and where they have worked (see number 4).
- LinkedIn is my friend. Prior to attending a conference, I try to connect with the speakers who interest me or any other attendees who can either provide me with valuable information or would benefit to know that I’m in attendance also.
- Pay your dues. Don’t expect the first conference of the first year you join an organization you will be the “toast of the town.” Get involved and volunteer for committees and go to the meetings whenever possible.
- Finally, be kind and remember to listen. I’ve heard some amazing stories of perseverance and success by just listening and asking questions.
Although these tips can’t guarantee that you’ll make sales or immediate friends, they do help me to uncurl myself out of my hedgehog shell and grow as a human being. I’m always open to connecting with new people – feel free to reach out to me at Maria.EffertzHanson@ae2s.com.