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Holiday Networking Refresher

November 22, 2011

“Voice from the Trenches” is written by Karen Euler, director of marketing at TRO Jung|Brannen. A dedicated member of SMPS Boston, she enjoys conversing with readers via Twitter [@karen_e] or LinkedIn.

In the spirit of being accountable to the business of the firm, marketers and technical and design professionals can usually benefit from a few tips and tricks for networking at this time of year.

During the holidays, we often have the chance to attend parties and events of both professional and personal nature. These events can be a great way to loosen your shackles to the desk and get out there and do some of the marketing we want and need to do.

Everyone markets differently. You probably already have strengths you might not even realize are marketing (like being comfortable connecting people who have common interests) so it’s your choice: strengthen your strong points or work on your weak areas.

First and foremost, schmoozing does not have to be smarmy. It can be fun and friendly! Keep business cards on you at all times and brush up on your social skills if you’ve been spending too much time with the TV (it happens to all of us). If you haven’t been out in awhile, it can be helpful to remember to move along gracefully so you connect with lots of people, not just a few of your friends. Long conversations are really not the point – short conversations that give you an excuse to follow-up are a better aim.

You have a unique story. Before you attend an event, take time to reflect on the projects you are involved in and the value you add. As Jon Pate of Warner Larson says, “Practice the short-and-sweet description of your firm, and quickly explain your favorite thing you’re currently working on. Avoid rattling on unless the person wants to know more. The goal is to pique their interest.” Many experts say that marketing at its essence is about sharing stories and thereby attracting and retaining customers.

For advanced practitioners of event networking: before you go to an event, make a pocket-sized list of who you want to meet or talk to. This is known as targeting your networking so that you get the most out of the social hour.

Review the basics such as what side of your chest your nametag goes (high up and on your right), what makes a good handshake (firm grip and look ‘em in the eye), where to keep your business cards (wherever on your person you can reach them easily and casually). You’ll feel more confident going into the room. On that topic, have a drink, if that is your style. Phil Hammond of Massachusetts Associated General Contractors adds, “Don’t overeat or hang out at the buffet. It wastes too much valuable time and you don’t want food in your teeth, anyway.”

When you are offered someone’s card, read it right then and there. It doesn’t seem friendly when we stuff a card in our pocket. Instead, ask intelligent questions or give a sincere compliment (“My, what lovely card stock! And such a nice logo you have!”)

A lovely tip: don’t interrupt a twosome in conversation. Instead, approach the quiet loner or wallflower. You will make him or her feel great, and you may discover an amazing person.

If a conversation has gone on a bit too long, try this exit strategy from Karen Van Winkle of TRO Jung|Brannen, “I don’t want to tie you up, because I know you are here to network!”

Kirsten Singleton of the Massachusetts Hospital Association adds that if you are with a group from a company, “You should spread out to meet as many people as possible. I have noticed some groups all hang together and I feel like they miss opportunities to spread out and maximize their connections.”

It leaves an excellent impression when you take the time to follow up in writing the next day or so. This type of behavior is the basic building block of networking. You will always stand out when you follow up, because it’s actually pretty rare! If you don’t have one already, get a system going for keeping track of names/people. If using Outlook, take advantage of the Notes field or other features to keep track of conversations, etc.

Nowadays there are so many ways to make follow-up contact, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. However you do it, the fact of the matter is that “touching the customer” works to build business. After the event, you might:

  • Share a useful article in a way that’s easy to digest – such as a quick summary
  • Recognize an anniversary or birthday
  • Congratulate staff on projects their firms have successfully completed
  • Pass leads to colleagues if you hear of work that may interest them

As always, be generous with your time, ideas, leads, information, and contacts, and it will come back to you. A great book on very assertive networking that concludes on a theme of generosity is Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi. A more established classic on this topic is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, first published in 1936 and still a gold standard.

Gail Evans, senior vice president at Maine General Health, had the simplest but most moving advice to offer for holiday time networking, “Just stay close to your professional friends, knowing that they are one of your best assets.”

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 22, 2011 2:18 pm

    Love this article – it’s a great reminder of how to approach all the upcoming parties! I just restocked my business card case!

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  1. “Holiday networking refresher” « kareneuler

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