Well, I’m back! After a much needed break for part of the summer, networking junkie posts are back to weekly and this week I take on a discussion of networking in a foreign land. I’m inspired to do this as I am in Mexico for a 3 day conference, where I get to practice my Spanish and network in a place that is outside my normal comfort zone. But while planning my strategy for how I will make the most effective use of my time while I am here, it came to mind that we all have instances where we are networking in our own “foreign lands.” Any time I am networking in a place I have never been I am certainly a fish out of water.
With that said, I like to make the impending networking (whether a conference or a happy hour or a luncheon) opportunity less daunting by going through a little preparation so that I can be prepared and, most importantly, COMFORTABLE.
1) Get the lay of the land: If you are going to a new place for networking, such as a conference you have yet to go to before, or a new event in your own town, or out of town, do a little advance work. The night before a conference I like to go through the conference brochure or explore the web site which gives me names or people who I might want to run into, whether attendees or panelists. This gives you purpose for those times you might be twiddling your thumbs at the event. Plus, mentioning to someone you wanted to meet them and knowing their name is a flattering approach. If you can, give a walkthrough of the space you will be in the day before. It can give you ease to not have new surroundings the next day.
2) Set some goals (work with numbers): What do you want to get out of a networking event where you may not know anyone or where you have never been before? You have options. If at a conference, maybe you in getting a lay of the land you found a certain set number of people you want to meet. Have a specific number. It is much less daunting when you have specifics on who you want to meet. Maybe you want to make contacts at the trade show portion? Okay, pick a number. Perhaps it is a happy hour and you want to meet new client prospects. Have a set script to qualify your client prospects and set a goal to meet at least “x” number. What do I mean by qualifying? It can be as simple as asking someone, “what brings you here?” You might find a person’s answer let’s you know their intentions and maybe you can drum up business.
3) Find a safe space: Now, the last thing I want to tell you is that you want to find a little place to run and hide away from people so that you don’t pursue effective networking, but one thing that I like to do in any new setting where I need to build up my networking confidence is to find a place where I can “reset.” At a one hour happy hour sometimes that means I have a nice little spot by the lite bites where I have people who come up to me (since they are getting food). Plus food is comforting to me (that probably needs some other blog post on some other site). This is a place where I can run into someone, but be comfortable while there. From here it is easier to strike out after a few successful connections. At a conference, I have the same thing. I like a charging station or a spot near the registration tables where I can set up a few minutes or return to on occasion when I need to reset myself for my next round of networking.
So hopefully these tips help you when you are in your next “foreign” place making successful connections. Good luck!