When I have the opportunity to discuss with people how to work a room, in a networking sense, one of the key questions I get from the novice and even not so novice networker is: “How do I approach it?” There are really many ways to answer this, but for simplicity it helps to have a framework. Here are the 5 steps to take that can help you conquer the room when it comes to networking.
1) Introduction: Who are you? Tell someone. It can be as simple as “I’m Scott from Scottsdale,” or a bit grander or formal, but state who you are and do it with a nice firm (but not aggressive) handshake. Your first impression should be strong. If you are nervous, feel free to practice your approach in a mirror (even if it’s in the vanity mirror in your car).
2) Short Story: Why are you here and what are you doing? This is the moment where drop in why you happen to be at the alumni event, or chamber of commerce event, or happy hour with new acquaintances. It helps to go into conversation with a common background, so if you are at an event with peers, maybe you can mention someone there you are there to meet in case the person opposite you has that common connection.
3) Conversation: Here is where you get to be that charming and charismatic person. Try not to dominate the conversation. Be sure to ask the person opposite you their short story. Ask them if there is anything they are trying to gain that you can help them with. Look to try to find some common ground.
4) Close: Wrapping up the conversation after you have made a lasting connection is what I like to term the close. We can’t talk to one person forever, after all. But be sure to make eye contact and let someone know it was a sincere pleasure to meet and ask for a business card in order to follow up.
5) Rehash: Once you are done meeting someone, that is just the beginning. It is crucial to foster that relationship. Within 3 days of meeting someone, be sure to reach out by phone or e-mail. Drop in a fact you learned about that person when you met, and mention to the person it was a pleasure to meet. If the connection looks promising, be sure to set up a time to meet for coffee.