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Ask the Experts: How Do You Work a Room?

September 29, 2010

Anne Crowe KrogerToday, Anne Crowe Kroger, MBA, CPSM, – the business development director for the Boston office of parking consulting firm Walker Parking Consultants – is addressing how to “work a room.”

As a business development veteran you have a lot of experience attending networking events. Do you have any advice about how to “work a room”?

Thanks for asking about one of my favorite subjects: networking. Networking can be exhilarating and rewarding if you have a plan and set realistic goals. Or networking can be traumatic and exhausting if you think you can wing it. You’ll be sorely disappointed if you wing it.

How do you work a room? With a plan. Prior to attending any networking event, ask yourself why you’re attending and what you expect to achieve. Do you hope to meet a particular person? Do you want to learn more about a topic relevant to your clients? Set two to three realistic goals prior to attending the event. Then ask for the attendee list. You may not get it, but nothing ventured nothing gained. Review the list before the event and target the people with whom you’d like to speak. Make a list (to keep in your head) of the questions you want to ask these people. You should have both icebreaker casual questions and serious questions about what you want to learn. Preparing the list ahead of time will help you stay calm when you do meet people.

Take a moment when you arrive at the event and review the name tags that are usually laid out on the registration table. Read them. See who’s attending. Who do you want to meet? Now, you know who to look for.

Now, head to the bar. Really. This is where you’re going to find people. Read nametags as you’re standing in line. Talk to the people standing next to you. You’ve been here 10 minutes and you’ve met two to three people. See how easy this is?

Get something to drink, even non-alcoholic, just to have something to hold. You are more approachable with a drink in your hand. Honest. Now, find someone you want to talk with and introduce yourself. Go ahead. Don’t be shy. Try to remember that the majority of the attendees would rather be home. They are shy too. People are usually thankful that you’ve introduced yourself.

Another option for meeting your target audience is to have an intermediary. Ask someone in your network to introduce you to your target. This helps you to break the ice and gives you some credibility because the person in your network is also in your target’s network.

What if you’re talking to someone and you just can’t seem to get away? There are a few options for this situation. Introduce them to someone else and then excuse yourself. As simple as “excuse me” and walk away. Remember to be polite and follow the manners mom taught you. All will be fine. Another option is just to say “Excuse me I need to find so and so. It was nice talking with you.”

If you’ve attended the event with a colleague or even a friend, you can help each other and work the room together. Introduce people to each other, direct targets to each other. But remember, you are at the event to work and so is your colleague/friend. Do not use them as a crutch and don’t let them use you as a crutch. Split up and go meet people. Work your plan. Remember why you’re there. Having a partner can help with networking only if you both are working.

Smile and try to enjoy yourself. If you look like you’re having fun, people will want to know you. Enjoy the event. You may meet someone exciting. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll achieve at least a few of the goals you set for the event.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 29, 2010 3:07 pm

    hi there Anne! This is great – I’m passing along to our non-marketing people because they’re often intimidated by the thought of trying to talk with strangers. These are good tips – especially asking for the attendee list in advance. Someday I truly plan to call you for lunch!
    all best – P/

  2. April-Marie Newcomb permalink
    November 9, 2012 11:17 am

    Thank you for this very intriguing insight to marketing / networking, I fall into the non-marketing category, but find these tips quite universal for many situations. Thanks Ann!

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