How to Make the Most of Those In Person Events
Does the thought of attending a networking event cause you to break out in a cold sweat? Would you rather be buried alive than forced to indulge in small talk with someone you don’t know?
You are not alone. Most people will admit to some amount of fear or anxiety when it comes to meeting new people. Luckily for us at Digital Dallas we have members who are pros at networking and have offered their suggestions for overcoming your fears and making the most out of any networking experience.
Put these helpful tips to good use at our upcoming Happy Hour on August 20th, view details here.
Our featured members:
Mike Merrill is a Digital Strategist, Keynote Speaker and Enterprise Account Executive for Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud. Read more about Mike here.
Paul Treanor is the Content Director for dmg events USA, and is responsible for content planning of 30 breakout sessions and five keynotes including speaker selection of 100+ presenters at each ad:tech New York and San Francisco event. Read more about Paul here.
Michael Sitarzewski: is co-founder and CEO of Epic Playground, Inc. He is a veteran entrepreneur with a specific focus on Web-based software and services. Michael considers helping people understand and leverage technology his life’s work. Read more about Mike here
dd: What’s your game plan for attending a networking event?
Paul: I do not set any goals in networking events other than to meet new people, try to make a new friend and catch up with existing contacts. Taking the approach that a networking event is a fun experience and not a business opportunity makes it more genuine and easier to engage with people in a natural way.
Mike: I like to pay it forward at events. Often I’ll meet someone who doesn’t’ really know anyone at the event. So I’ll go out of my way to introduce them to a few folks and then move on. Occasionally i’m trying to meet 1 or 2 specific folks I know who will be there.
Michael: I don’t have a plan going in, I just go to meet people and hope to connect with them later and build relationships that way. What happens will happen and it’s better for me to let them happen naturally and organically.
dd: Small talk is an art. How do you start conversations?
Paul: I can talk to almost anyone but need a jumping off point like snazzy shoes, a recognizable company, or some other “in” to start the conversation. One tactic is find the people who are alone, usually standing against the wall looking at their smartphones, and strike up a conversation with them. Knowing from experience how awkward it can be as “party-of-one”, any stranger can be your new best friend when you are alone in a crowd of people talking in groups.
Mike: I constantly try to connect people there and look for what they need as I find that’s the best way to build relationships. Smiling goes a long way in meeting folks and involving yourself in other conversations. A sense of humor helps as well.
Michael: I like to share a personal anecdote that I think will connect with them or use other social cues to keep the conversation going. I was fortunate my Dad had a gift for gab so I learned a lot watching him. That’s a pretty good way to get better, by watching someone that does it well and see what you can learn.
dd: Anything else you’ve found to help you make a networking event productive/helpful for you?
Paul: A great strategy to help make a networking event productive is get in the drink line fast, preferably the longest line there is. People are social in the drink lines and it is easy to strike up a conversation with the person in front or back of you. If you don’t find anyone interesting, down the drink and get back into the line (just don’t get drunk).
Mike: The event isn’t over when everyone leaves. I connect with people I’ve met on LinkedIn and Twitter after the event to continue to get to know them. That way, when I have a specific need to meet with someone, I have a warm way to reach back out by reminding them of how we met, and schedule a lunch or coffee.
Michael: When at all possible I take a picture of their card, email them right then and there to follow up immediately. Usually I can give them their card back and I know I’ve followed up and let them reply to me. This way I don’t forget and it shows I’m interested in following up.