Martin’s networking style certainly
got him noticed!

See if you recognize yourself in this scenario.

When I first started attending networking events, I always felt unsure of myself. I worried about what people would think of me. Would they know that I was a complete fraud and without any confidence at all? What would they think of what I was wearing? What would I say to them?

Oh, my goodness.

By the time I actually walked through the door (usually late), I was so keyed up that I was just about ready to explode. Then some poor slob would ask me about what I did for a living and (after taking a deep breath) I was off to the races. I would talk about what I did, who I did it for, what my successes were, what I could do for them, the colors we used, the subcontractors I could call on, the folks for whom I had been a subcontractor, what kind of car I drove, where I lived, and where I had gone on vacation last summer.

Then I took a second breath.

OK, so maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit — though if you ask that poor slob, it might not be by much — but you get my drift. My own self-conscious self-involvement caused me to focus on my own needs and not on those of my conversational partner. Now, since you are an accomplished networker already, you may have no idea what I’m talking about. In that case, you might want to pass this advice along to someone who needs it, but here are a few things to remember.

  1. Regarding your outfit, no one cares. Of course it should be clean, neat, and completely buttoned up, we still want to make a good first impression, after all. Beyond that, though, just leave the gorilla costume at home, and you will be fine.
  2. Regarding what they think of you, they don’t. In general, most people you meet are more concerned with what you think of them. If you walk in and assume that everyone is just as terrified as you are, you won’t be far from the truth. Just don’t spook them and you should all be fine.
  3. Regarding what you should say to them, as little as possible. Your best conversations at a networking event will involve you speaking for around thirty percent of the time, and a lot of that will be questions you are asking them. Asking questions and focusing on listening to their answers will save you from talking their ear off. Remember, no one wants to walk away from you if they are the ones talking.
Remember at a networking event, no matter what you would like to think, the conversation should never be about you. Make them the center of attention by just asking questions (which are a lot easier to prepare than any long speeches about you and what you do). If you can do that, you’ll be surprised at the number of people who will be interested in getting together to continue the conversation later.
Where they will be a lot more likely to be actually interested in what you have to say.