Having belonged to a multitude of state and national court reporting trade associations, as well as being a member of attorney, paralegal and legal secretary associations, I have had the great opportunity of attending receptions, cocktail parties, and events where the objective of the event is to network.
I was in my 20s when I started going to networking events. I remember feeling uncomfortable, a little shy, overwhelmed, and kind of scared that there wouldn’t be anyone to talk to and would look weird standing by myself in a corner. But I kept going because I knew it was important, and I truly wanted to figure out how the world of networking works.
The following are some suggestions for successful networking:
1. Know your audience and anticipate what they want out of the event.
2. Are you at an event with colleagues and competitors that want to know how business is going or about new technology that you just discovered and are excited about? Be ready to share information that YOU WANT TO SHARE. Be clear in your mind before you get to the event what is proprietary to your business and what information would be helpful and interesting. Being ready to share interesting information will give people a reason and wish to talk to you.
3. Are you at an event with clients or potential clients? In my experience, talking about how great my company is or all of the bells and whistles that we have available is totally boring. They want to talk about their business, what they might need help with, who they are as people. Because the court reporting industry is saturated with salespeople and account executives, I have found that many times the moment I mention I own a court reporting firm, attorneys cringe and try to get away. I believe court reporting is the last thing they want to hear about. Sports, weather, and interesting news is a better bet.
4. Are you at an event with businesspeople not related to your particular industry? I believe this is the easiest and most fun group of people to network with. Learning about different businesses, asking businesspeople how they think, make decisions, what their typical day is like is super interesting. Attorneys are lucky. Everyone is a potential client. As a court reporter, I enjoy going to Rotary, Chamber of Commerce meetings with an eye towards knowing people and what they do. Oftentimes, I will meet people that learn I am a court reporter and want to ask me for legal advice or if I know an attorney that does a particular type of litigation or transactional work. There is no better way to network than to refer an attorney client to someone.
5. The key is to listen and always be thinking, “How can I help this person? Who do they need to know? Is there anyone I can introduce her/him to that would be beneficial for all?”
6. If a person doesn’t want to talk to you, move on, and don’t let your feelings be hurt. I have found many people come to networking events with a specific agenda in mind or to meet a particular person. If they say, “I really want to meet Joe Smith,” and you happen to know Joe Smith, make the introduction. If you just get the vibe they want to move on, excuse yourself and go talk to someone else.
7. Ways to politely excuse yourself: “It was really great talking to you. I think I am going to go freshen my drink,” or “I need to speak to Ted Smith before he leaves, please excuse me,” or, “It was great talking to you. I hope I see you tomorrow at the seminar,” or, “Do you know Jan Campo? I think it would be great for you two to meet because…” and introduce them.
8. If you have no one to talk to, find someone else that has no one to talk to. You can go up to them, shake their hand, say your name, and ask, “How long have you been a member,” or, “Where are you from,” or “What seminars look good to you,” or, “Have you tried the shrimp? They’re amazing.” If the person is not interested in talking to you, move on. You can say, “It was nice talking to you. Enjoy the convention.”
9. If you have a specific agenda or want to be introduced to a person, find someone that knows the person and ask for an introduction. People like to help people connect.
The next time you go to a networking event, know that many of the people there are nervous, probably a little scared, and want to connect. I promise networking is easy, but for some people it takes practice. Don’t waste any opportunity to meet people. I believe networking = success.
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