Face-to-Face Business Networking Tips for Editors
Recently The Editing Company team participated in the "How to Meet People in a Room Full of Strangers" webinar hosted by Editors Canada. Cheryl Scoffield, the presenter, is a networking coach who shared tips on a number of different strategies by which to meet and follow up with clients and business contacts. Her key piece of advice: "Take action!"
Attending the Networking Event
This call to action refers to, among other things, the nervous networker's tendency to avoid meeting new people when attending an event, choosing instead to stay near the back of the room and stare at their shoes. Scoffield suggests turning networking events into personal games or challenges that promote positive self-acknowledgment. One game that she highly recommends is the “Ten Penny Game.” It involves participants taking a pocketful of pennies—nickels or dimes may be easier to find—to a networking event, and transferring a penny to the opposite pocket every time they challenge themselves. Participants can say hello to someone, exchange business cards, look someone in the eyes and say hello. As long as what they’re doing represents a personal challenge, they move a penny from one pocket to the other with each successful action. The more pennies in the opposite pocket at the end of the event, the better they’ve done.
Help Others Remember Your Name
Another key tip is to make sure that your name is remembered by those you meet, and you can do this by putting your name tag in clear view. Scoffield emphasizes the importance of placing your name tag on your right shoulder rather than on your left. This strategic placement corresponds with the hand you'll likely be using to shake the hands of networkers you meet, providing a direct line of sight from your hand, up your right arm, to your name tag, and then your face. In this way, the people you meet will connect your name to your face. It also frees up your left hand so you can more easily hand out your business card.
The Opening Conversation
Scoffield reminds us that initial networking conversations don't need to be brilliant. For the most part, the people who attend networking events are there to meet potential clients and business contacts, not engage in involved discussions. One way to get things started with the people you meet is to describe what you do and why you're at the event. And as a FORM-al reminder, Scoffield suggests using basic questions that focus on Familiar, Occupation, Resources, and Message.
- Open up a conversation with a familiar topic. For example, commenting on the weather is always a favourite. Or asking about someone's commute in to the event.
- Ask questions about what the other person does. If you ask someone what they do for work, they're likely to ask you in return.
- Offer some free professional tips that might help the person you're talking to. You can offer tips about editing, discuss a workshop you're offering, describe a related event that you've recently attended, or refer them to resources on your website or Facebook page. This is a good opportunity to ask the person you are talking to for their business card and let them know you’d be happy to send them those links.
- Talk about your business mandate and why you have come to the networking event.
- This is the time to give your fellow networker your "elevator pitch." According to Scoffield, your pitch is a prepared statement that you have rehearsed in front of a mirror many times over. You can also practise with family or friends. Being able to say your pitch with ease and comfort is the key goal.
More on the Elevator Pitch
Keep your pitch short and simple, it'll be easier to remember that way. Whatever you say, though, make sure you focus on what you do and how the work you do helps your clients. Scoffield suggests adding an extra element: mentioning the No. 1 concern of your target market and describing how what you do addresses that concern.
The Tactful Retreat
If a conversation has run its course, it's sometimes difficult to find a tactful way to leave. The key thing here is to not come off as being rude but to find a way to move on to the next potential contact. One way to accomplish this is to excuse yourself to refresh your drink. Likely, the person you're talking to is also interested in ending the conversation in favour of networking with others, and will respond appropriately to this social cue.
If you promised to send a resource link to someone you met, do so within a few days of the event. And be sure to send short emails to other contacts whose cards you now have and let them know you enjoyed meeting them. You never know where a friendly hello will lead.
Try out these tips at your next event. And remember to enjoy yourself while out there building your networks and sharpening your communication skills!
For more about Cheryl Scoffield, visit her at KickstartYourCompany.com.