Know the feeling when you’re talking to someone and they’re looking over your shoulder for someone most interesting? Or the eyes are glazed over? (Or maybe you’re looking for the exit sign.) You could say, in these cases, that the missing ingredient is engagement. You want engagement whether you’re meeting privately with a report or your boss, presenting to a huge audience, or meeting new people at an event (which could even be a cool cocktail party.)
These engaged networking skills are advanced. If being in a huge room filled with strangers makes you want to throw up, you might not feel up to asking unusual questions or introducing people in a way that creates excitement. You might want to read 5 Tips to Enjoy Yourself at Any Event first. You can practice these at home or in a more comfortable setting before you attend The Global Event on your specialty.
The first thing you want to do about networking at a significant event is to have some interesting-to-you goals about who you want to meet and which companies you want to connect with.
Also think about how you want to feel while you are there. Confident? Simply relaxed? Funny?
If you find meeting lots of people exhausts you, limit your exposure by time (1 hour and you’re out) or by number of people (as in meet 4 people and you’re done.) Defining these elements in advance sets you up for networking success….as the most interesting person in the room.
1. Make us want to meet someone.
Not many people get this but you actually create excitement about yourself when you introduce people to each other in a way that makes them WANT to meet that person. It’s almost like you’re selling this person (because secretly you are selling them as someone worthy of one’s time.)
How do you do this? It takes some creativity, but think about what is impressive about this person, or fascinating, and emphasize that aspect in your introduction.
Something like, “You have got to meet Randy, he is the most widely-traveled person I have ever met. I think he’s been to 200 countries. In China, he’s a rock star.”
Or…”Susan is the go-to community service person in our company. She absolutely participates in and drives so much of our outreach work.”
To make it simple, just introduce the person in a way that makes the conversation easy for them. That is also handy if you want to go talk to someone else, because these people are already engaged in a conversation that you set up.
When you’re introducing people in a way that shows enthusiasm, and that positive association will reflect back onto you.
2. Introduce yourself in an interesting way. If your job title is inherently fascinating, like if you’re the hiring manager of Google, you’re already interesting. If you’re a project manager for Apex Corporation, you can be creative with your self introduction.
Here’s a template:
My job title is ____________ but what I really do is __________ for _________ so that ____________.
Example: My job is Instructional Designer at a hospital, but what I really do is help doctors and nurses learn how to easily share all their interactions with the patient so everyone involved knows what is going on with that patient so that the quality of health care is better. With this software I teach, your grandfather in the hospital won’t be given a medicine he’s allergic to because everyone can see his allergies.
People will connect much faster to “but what I really do is …” than to “I’m a Project Manager at AAA Consulting.”
Another approach is to emphasize what you really love to do. For example, “I’m Director of HR at Apex Pharma, but what I really love to do is paint dogs with their owners.” Now you’ve become more interesting. It’s like when you find out Angelina Jolie really loves to knit; now you feel more connected with her.
3. Use your interesting introduction to ask unusual questions. Consider yourself as “the most interesting person at this event.’ With that under your belt, take liberty to ask not-the-usual questions. This practice will make you seem even more fascinating and others will automatically become more engaged in your message.
Sample unusual (aka refreshing) questions for networking events:
- So what is the most interesting/challenging thing about your work?
- Hey, if you had to create a new job title for what you do, what would it be?
- I’m feeling kinda overwhelmed with all the cool presentations going on here. What it the one thing that really stands out to you from all you’ve heard?
- Do you ever feel performance anxiety before presenting? What’s your game plan when your stomach starts hurting and your hands become clammy?
- If you could choose 1 superpower: a cloak of invisibility, mind reading or time traveling, what would you pick? (BTW, it doesn’t matter at all if the person suggests a different desired superpower.)
With these kinds of conversations, you automatically become the most interesting person in the room. If you’re ready to go home now, be sure to follow up with Linkedin or email. Or have a post-event get-together and invite your new friends.