Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Quirky Networking Tips from the Blue Ferret

Tomorrow is the annual Tri-Valley Regional Mixer (PDF Link). It's a huge event, put together by no less than four local Chambers of Commerce and several regional business organizations.

I've never seen less than a hundred people at this event, and I wouldn't be surprised if it surges past 150 easily. I met my first long-term client at this, the first year I attended. Incentive enough for me to go back after a school-caused absence from the region, wouldn't you think?

This will be my fourth consecutive visit. I have all the basics laid out - what to wear, when to arrive, what to eat, what NOT to eat, etc.

That in mind, I'd like to share some of my networking tips for large groups. Some of these I've gleaned from years of flubbing my words at events like this. Some I've been given by professionals, especially Rick Silva, whose networking advice already resonates so strongly in my community that I'm expecting to have his techniques repeated by others at the same time I use them!

Blue Ferret Networking Tips
  1. Your ID badge goes on the right side of your coat, about an inch below the collar. This is the arm you shake hands with, so the other person's eyes line up with that side of your chest. Makes it easy for them to pick up your name.

  2. Never, ever eat anything dribbly at a mixer. May seem obvious, but I'd need more fingers to count the number of times I've seen someone rush to the bathroom with a badly-stained tie or blouse.

  3. A gimmick is great for a conversation starter, but you better have something to back it up. My blue ferret plush draws attention like crazy, but when I started using him, I couldn't steer the topic away from ferrets and onto writing. As a result, people would talk to me for a second, hit a wall, and walk away. Have something substantial to talk about with others.

  4. Polish that elevator speech until it shines. Rehearsing the words a couple times isn't enough; you'll sound contrived and feel phony. Use a mirror, mutter it while walking around your desk repeatedly, whatever it takes. I like reading my speech, and then doing an impression while rehearsing. Marlon Brando would be proud of this 'contendah.'

  5. Set a goal for a SPECIFIC number of contacts made during your time there. I find 10 to be reasonable (and I easily exceed that). But you have to make it ironclad. You're not leaving until you get to that number.

  6. The peak time for real contacts, for me, is about an hour into the mixer. By then everyone's had something to eat and/or drink, they're in tune with the night's dynamic, and more relaxed. They're at their friendliest. Take advantage of it.

I'll see you at the mixers!


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