4 Hacks To Dust Off Your Networking Skills At In-Person Events
By Stephanie Burns
In-person networking events are starting to come back on the scene, and you may be feeling a little rusty stepping back into your off-line life. Connecting in person feels a little foreign now–how quickly we adapted to working behind a screen. However, connecting in person with others is the secret sauce to building long-term and meaningful relationships. Those relationships can lead to business opportunities, which can lead to scaling your business.
According to Jen Gottlieb, cofounder of startup PR agency, Super Connector Media, relationships are the unfair advantage to everything and based on the unprecedented success of the company’s recent live event in New York City, shaking hands and breaking bread together are critical components of cultivating and nurturing those relationships. Now that networking events are back, it’s time to dust off those in-person skills.
“Reconnecting with people in person may leave you feeling a little bit uncomfortable, which is good. We want to be a little bit uncomfortable,” says Gottlieb. “The only way to grow is to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable every single day. Stepping outside of your comfort zone is what makes us confident and in return, will help thrive when meeting new people,” she adds.
Here are Gottlieb’s four tips to making powerful connections that upscale both your business and your life.
Announce Your Vulnerability
When you’re having conversations with people, and you feel the nerves kick in, the best thing to do is recognize your vulnerability. By announcing the elephant in the room, the thought of anxiety slips away and you are able to find peace of mind and comfort that others may be feeling the same way. It very well could be the first networking event they’ve been to in two years!
“At our cocktail party a few weeks back, our attendees and special media guests all felt so out of practice connecting with people that I made it a point to tell our guests how uncomfortable I even felt and I was the host!” This is the ice breaker that Gottlieb leverages over and over again, because it’s just so genuine. “The reaction I received from everyone was ‘Me too! I thought I was the only one.’” This led to flowing conversations that resulted in mutual win-win benefits for her and her guests.
Instead of going into a room and thinking about how you can dazzle the pants off of everybody, think about how you can find out the most information about other people, and most importantly how you can listen more.
The key here is to search for clues in the conversation of what that person may need help with. Lean into your expertise, and find out how you can be supportive of their needs. Be more interested in them than trying to “sell” yourself.
Gottlieb tries to be a detective to figure out everything she can about people in the room. “You never are at a loss for conversation points when asking questions about them – it allows for so much organic connection that has helped me to get to know people on a much deeper level,” explains Gottlieb. This has made her rolodex of high-caliber connections skyrocket.
This is also a great tactic if you find that you are a tad shy. Simply asking people to tell you about themselves, asking clarifying questions and really listening, not only endears you to someone, but relieves the pressure of having to make small talk.
Go In With A Goal
Gottlieb suggests that you should always have a clear goal and intention when going to a networking event. If you’re just floating around without a mission, you’re going to feel lost. Set yourself up for success by being efficient with your time, that you’re going to work the room like no one else, and you’re going to make your goal happen that you set for yourself before walking in.
“The good thing about having a goal and intention is that you can focus on quality over quantity rather than trying to connect with everyone in the room, getting overwhelmed and not being able to remember who you met or what you talked about,” says Gottlieb. This technique has brought in millions of dollars to her company.
Some great goals to set for yourself could be: not just talking to people you already know, introduce yourself to at least 10 people, or making three introductions to colleagues who you think are strategically aligned.
The art of follow up doesn’t have to be hard. Make it as organic as possible, and the conversation will naturally flow. Gottlieb recommends going paperless and maintaining a notepad on your phone for all your connections. “It’s the easiest way to streamline your network and make sure no connection falls through the cracks” she says. Whether it’s Linkedin, Facebook, IG, email or text: stick to one method so that all of your followup is strategically in one place.
By implementing Gottlieb’s tips for mastering connections at your next in-person event, you are sure to walk out of the room feeling like you are ready to jump back into in-person networking like a pro.