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5 Networking Tips for SMPS Northeast Regional Conference

May 3, 2012

Today’s post is courtesy of Marc Pelletier. Marc is a principal at the Baldwin Group and can be reached at marc@baldwingroup.us.

Not everyone likes to go to events, especially alone. Questions come up: Do I know anyone here? What is everyone talking about? Where’s the food? More importantly, where’s the bar? When can I leave? Why am I even here?

Sound at all familiar? If so, you’re perfectly normal. Going to ‘networking’ events is extremely stressful for many people. So, here are some observations about the value of events and a few tips about what you might consider.

  1. Get prepared for a successful time. Ask yourself what you know about the event – do a bit of preparation. Learn who will (or is likely to) be there. If you can, review the attendee list and see whom you might know or would like to meet, then do some research. You should make a point of reaching out to the hosts/organizers prior to the event and thanking them; you can also ask if he/she would make an introduction for you.
  2. What to wear. So now you are ready to go. Think about what you are going to wear – don’t look too dressy or too casual. (Of course, I wear a bowtie all the time, so casual is not my typical dress.) Think about pockets (biz cards). Remember, that you will likely be wearing a nametag at your shoulder – how will your clothing like the pin/adhesive?
  3. Arrive early and/or stay late. If you arrive early, introduce yourself to the hosts and ask if there is anything you can do to help. Stand by the entrance so that everyone passes by you as they arrive. If you stay late, you will see the most dedicated and connected people in conversation.
  4. Try to help others. Make it your business to introduce people who have potentially common personal and business interests. Look for wallflowers. Reach out and try to introduce them to others; they will be forever grateful for your kindness and assistance. They are there, but may not be comfortable in these situations.
  5. Make a point to tell everyone your name. We all forget others’ names at the worst times; it’s easy to just walk up and say, “[your name], nice to see you here.” They might not remember your name either, so you have just avoided an awkward moment. If the other person doesn’t respond with his/her name, it’s fine to ask for it, “Sorry, just having a moment – please tell me your name again”.

By the way, don’t hang out with your friends for more than a minute – make a plan to catch up later, and then go onto others. Of course, you can ask your friend for an introduction to someone you’d like to meet.

A few last thoughts: Don’t overindulge. Don’t tie up people for more than a few minutes (five is plenty). Don’t ask for business. Don’t show up without business cards. Don’t gossip.

Do try to do something nice for someone. Do smile and carry yourself well. And, please try to have a good time.

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