Work that Room: Top Five Tips for Making the Most Out of a Networking Event

Whether you’re in public relations or a related industry, you’ve likely attended your fair share of networking events. Mingling with the crowd and making worthwhile connections isn’t easy. Here are some tips for working a room:

1) Plan Your Intro. When approaching someone you don’t know, think about an opening line (just don’t ask them if they come here often). A tried and true approach is to inquire about their connection to the organization hosting the event.

2) Engage the loner. Have you ever been at an event where you know no one, and are tempted to hide out near the buffet table, but then someone approaches you and makes an introduction? Now think about how grateful you were that someone engaged you. The loner nursing a beer and scanning his BlackBerry in the corner may in fact be a great contact for you.

3) Ask compelling questions. Take the conversation beyond small talk, and ask them interesting questions that aren’t too focused on business, but could lead to a lively discussion. For example, you may ask, “have you read any books or articles that really stuck with you recently?” or  “did you hear that a couple in Israel named their child ‘like’ in an homage to Facebook?”

4) Plan an escape route. There is nothing wrong with bowing out of a conversation that has run its course. At any point, you can simply say, “it was great to meet you. Keep in touch, here’s my card.” They will probably be relieved to move on as well.

5) Follow-up is key. The day after an event, examine your stack of business cards. For people who would make a good addition to your network, drop them a casual, non-salesy email. Tell them you enjoyed meeting them and note one personal piece of your conversation. Consider adding them to your network on LinkedIn and following them on Twitter as well.

There are scores of articles published offering their own set of networking tips. The best one I’ve found is a compilation of crowdsourced tips (read it here). My favorite – never use the word “I” until the third sentence.

I’ll no doubt be using these strategies at Affect’s office warming party tonight, where we will show off our sparkling new space to friends, clients and partners.

Do you have any tips to share?

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2 Comments Work that Room: Top Five Tips for Making the Most Out of a Networking Event

  1. Lorelei Gibb

    Some great advice here, thank you. Following on from approaching the “loner” in the corner, if you are in a position to introduce one person to another this will help generate positivity towards yourself and people will perceive you as a confident networker, even if you’re not!

  2. Davina K. Brewer

    As someone who is shy and introverted I identify with the loner in the room, plus it’s just easier to strike up a conversation with one person vs. a group already laughing and chatting. Tip #1: yes, you need to have the ‘cocktail party elevator pitch’ ready. Asking questions of them so you don’t monopolize the conversation, that’s a good one. Love the “don’t say ‘I’ until the 3rd sentence” advice.

    On the follow up, really try to remember what you’ve talked about and make the follow-up relevant to that… not just ‘nice to meet you, let’s do biz.” I met a web developer the other night who’s not on Twitter, hadn’t seen the Oatmeal’s comic on web design so I sent a link to that instead. Can’t say it’ll always work have to think a personalized follow-up that shows you were paying attention will make an impression, have them fishing your business card out of their pocket to take note. FWIW.

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