By: Kristi Spargo
I recently attended a client meeting in Chicago along with over 35,000 attendees. With that insane amount of people basically overtaking the city, pretty much every person I saw was a potential networking opportunity. The sales people that I attended with were practically salivating at the world of prospective clients and never seemed to have enough time to meet everyone. Yet, for me, I am an editor/writer that works from home. The loudest and most people-intensive day of my week is Thursday, when both the trash and recycling truck swing by my house. Admittedly, being in a scenario where I am expected to drop into a room packed with strangers and network forces me outside of my comfort zone. It is part of my job, however, to establish connections and potential authors and nobody said it was easy.
Suck it up Buttercup
I have been in a large group networking situation where I felt frozen, holding my breath and with time seemingly standing still. It’s in these minutes that it’s imperative to figure out how draw strength in order to accomplish my goals. I have found it helpful to release my breath and tell myself that this is simply what I need to do whether I feel comfortable with it or not. The time has officially arrived to suck it up and be brave.
The Elevator Experience
Everyone should have an elevator speech, a thirty-second “commercial” about themselves. I have developed what I call the elevator experience. It’s the launch of who I am, where I am from, why I wanted to introduce myself, what I am looking for and the value we could gain from working together. It’s longer than a 30-second speech yet is still concise and can be well-rehearsed ahead of time in order to calm nerves. The important element to the elevator experience is that even though it’s just a few minutes the person you met should have a memorable moment and want more.
So. Many. Questions.
After getting them hooked with the intro elevator experience, it’s time to start with the questions. Being a writer I not only enjoy asking people questions but it’s also my secret ninja tool to throw attention off of myself and ease personal anxieties when talking to strangers. Get them talking. Pay attention to what they say and look for other avenues of questions to keep the ball rolling. People are honored when you show a genuine interest in getting to know them and the more questions asked, the more chances there are to determine similarities and establish a great rapport and a future working relationship.
It’ll Make Sense in the End
You’ve managed to work the room and walk away with a pocketful of business cards; now it’s time to return to the comfortable confines of your office and congratulate yourself. You did what you needed to do and you’re one step closer to actually making your job easier. Even though the networking experience might be unnerving and scary to start, when the emails start coming in from new contacts you will see it really was worth it. Investing your time, your fear and your trust in the process really does make sense in the end.