Here are some tips offered by networking coach, Don Gabor, to help you make the most of all the networking opportunities possible at PASS Summit 2009.
Question: How can I meet the speakers and PASS board members attending Summit? They’re always so busy, and if I do get my 30 seconds with them, I never know what to say.
Don's tip: You’re right, these folks will be super busy at the conference. But they do want to connect with you, so here’s how to head them off at the pass (excuse the pun). A week or so before the event, send them a brief email introducing yourself and saying that you’re attending the Summit. Include a brief workshop, program, or PASS-related question. When you see them at the opening ceremony or at a session, meal, or other conference event, you can say, “Hi, my name’s...I’m the person who sent you the question about...” And your conversation will be off and running.
Question: I never know what to say after I say hello when I meet other people at conferences like the PASS Summit and I hate to ask, “What do you do?” Any suggestions?
Don's tip: The solution to this problem is easy if you ask a few questions and make a few self-disclosures directly related to the conference. For example, right after you say hello to a stranger do the following: smile, make eye contact, offer to shake hands and introduce yourself. This alone shows you are receptive, friendly and open to conversation. Then quickly follow-up with an opened-ended question such as, “What brings you to the PASS Summit this year?” or a self-disclosure such as, “This is my first time at a PASS Summit conference. What about you?” Replace asking “What do you do?” with “What part of the industry do you work in?” Listen carefully for the person’s response and then based on what you hear and your interests, follow-up with a related question or a comment about what you hope to get from the conference or how you are involved in the industry.
Question: When I’m introduced to someone the name goes in one ear and out the other. I know remembering names is important when networking so what can I do to improve in this area?
Don's tip: Remembering names is a powerful networking skill, and it's easier to do than you might think if you use the following steps. Step 1: Focus on the moment of introduction and the person’s first name—don't think about what to say next. (Thinking about what you are going to say next is what causes you to miss the name.) Step 2: Repeat the person’s name aloud, so you both hear it and know that it's right. Step 3: (Here's the critical part) Think of someone you know with the same or similar name like a neighbor, school chum, relative, celebrity, historical figure—even a pet. (I know this sounds a little odd, but this association technique really works!) Step 4: Take an extra second and focus on the first letter of the person’s name. This will help you when you meet more than one person at a time and recalling the name at a later time. Step 5: Use the person’s name periodically in the conversation. If you forgotten his or her name, simply say, “Please tell me your name again.” Start to practice these techniques today and by the time you the PASS Summit rolls around, you (and everyone else!) will be surprised how many names you can remember!
Question: This is my first time attending the PASS Summit and I’m coming alone. I’m sure many of the people there probably already know each other and I’d like to join their conversations. What is the best way to do that?
Don's tip: True, some of the people in the groups will be past attendees the PASS Summit, but others will be newcomers like you, so don't worry, you'll be welcome to join them. Remember networking means talking to as many people as you can, however, it's up to you to make the move to join their group. First, move within "eavesdropping” distance—about 3 feet 3 to 5 feet—so you can hear what they're talking about and make sure that you want to join that particular conversation. Next, establish eye contact and smile at the people in the group, particularly as they speak. This shows that you are listening and interested in what the group is talking about. Then wait for a slight pause in the conversation at which time you can interject yourself into the discussion by asking an easy to answer question based on what you've heard. Listen to the answer and nod your head even if you disagree or know what someone said is incorrect. Never immediately challenge or contradict anything a person says in a conversation that you want to join. (You can address differences of opinion later, if the opportunity presents itself.) Now is the time to move into the group and in a friendly voice with a big smile introduce yourself, shake hands and become directly involved in the conversation.
Question: How can I network at the PASS Summit and let others know what I do, but not come across as someone trying to sell something?
Don's tip: Everyone attending the PASS Summit expects to network with the people they meet, so you need to explain what you do, and for whom, but without sounding too aggressive. I suggest writing and practicing a 25-word or so “elevator speech” that along with your company and professional job description, includes how you help others in your industry achieve their particular goals or solve their problems. In other words, how others benefit from what you do. For example, if you are in customer service, you might say something like, “I think of myself as a ‘database detective.’ I help clients by troubleshooting their problem queries and investigating various types of technical database issues. What about you?” Based on what you hear, ask a few follow-up questions that elicit the other person’s reasons for attending the conference or specific job challenges he or she faces before talking more about yourself or company. Now you are in a position to help him or her either by providing additional information about how he or she can benefit from your company's product or services or by connecting the person with one of your colleagues or someone else you’ve recently met at the conference. This is what networking is all about.
Tip 6 - Post Summit
I hope you had a great time and made lots of new friends and business contacts at PASS Summit 2009. However, now is the time to take your networking to the next level by doing what many people fail to do after attending a high-impact conference like this one—that is, FOLLOW-UP.
The thing is, for your new relationships to grow, you need to continue the contact you started at the conference—and it’s easier to do than you might think. Here are some tips:
- Follow up within one week of the event. (Although the PASS Summit has been over for several weeks, it’s still recent enough to send out notes to your new contacts.)
- Write a quick “It was nice to meet you” note or e-mail to the person. (Short and sweet works just fine.)
- Mail any information or literature you promised to send. (If you promised something and don’t deliver in a timely manner, your credibility will suffer.)
- Send thank-you notes or e-mails to the people who helped you make contacts. (It’s amazing how many people fail to send thank-you notes to those who help them.)
- Introduce additional contacts to the people you meet. (Helping others will pay off for you many times over.)
- Refer business opportunities to networking contacts. (CAUTION: Only refer people whose work, reliability and ethics you know firsthand.)
- Send networking contacts articles that may be of interest to them.
- Offer your expertise to networking contacts. (Sharing your knowledge is the key to success - for others and you.)
- Send networking contacts small gifts if they helped you or referred business to you. (Show appropriate appreciation to those who help you, but don’t overdo it.)
- Call or email networking contacts on a regular basis just to say “hello” or to share some relevant news or information. (Maintaining regular contact is the key to building and strengthening the relationship.)
- Invite networking contacts to join you at a social or business event or on LinkedIn.
Finally, I want to leave you with this last thought when it comes to networking.
Helping others is the best networking strategy I know. What you give out you get back - it just might not be from the same people!
Tip 7 - Do's and Dont's for Holiday Party Conversations
Holidays are stressful for nearly everyone, but if you are like a lot of people, making conversation and "small talk" at holiday parties can range from nerve-wracking to downright agony! But there’s help from Don Gabor, "small talk" expert and author of “How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends.” Don says that you can feel more comfortable mingling and chatting at parties if you do (and don’t do) these things:
DO get into a “party” frame of mind and leave your troubles and complaints at home.
DON’T wait for others to break the ice—take the initiative and be the first to say hello.
DO encourage others to talk about the big things in their lives.
DON’T just talk about work (or lack thereof), family or friends—reveal other outside interests.
DO gently probe for business and work opportunities
DON’T be a networking shark. If someone isn’t interested in talking business, be willing to chat about non-business topics.
DO move around the room and join other conversations already in progress.
Don Gabor recently presented two networking workshops at the PASS Summit 2009 to rave reviews. He was a spokesperson for Grand Marnier, Sprint and Frito-Lay. He has given hundreds of media interviews in publications including NY News Day, NY Times, Daily News, Woman’s Day, Self, Redbook, Men's Health, Entrepreneur, Success, Woman’s World, National Enquirer, Readers Digest, and many other newspapers and magazines of interest to men and women. The New Yorker called Don, "a gifted conversationalist."
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Click here to see all the networking opportunities you can take advantage of at PASS Summit 2009.