By Fred Siegman, Founding Member and LWCN's SME on Strategic Relationship Building
To become more successful at networking you need to break bad habits and build good ones. In habit talk, you get a cue, follow a routine, and get a reward.
One of the most common bad habits occurs when people attend a reception with great networking intentions. The cue, they arrive and see the crowd. Most people seeing that crowd, immediately feel uncomfortable, fearful, inhibited by the thought of talking to strangers.
After getting the cue, most people follow the same routine. They find people they already know. Their reward, they eliminate their discomfort and fear. This bad habit often leads to people believing networking doesn’t work.
So how does one create a new routine to follow this cue? One good way, identify people likely to be at the event you plan to attend. This could be leaders of the hosting organization or perhaps an event committee. If there are speakers or honorees, you know they’ll be there and probably others from their company or organization. When you identify people attending the event you would like to meet, you have targets.
Since you now have specific targets, you have the luxury of planning ahead of time what you will say to them when you first meet them. Keep in mind, you have less than ten seconds to initially engage that person. Look at their LinkedIn profile. Google them. Look for common links. Try to make those initial words you say be about the person you’re talking to, as little to nothing about yourself.
Even with strategic targets, you will still meet people randomly. Think of what you might say to those people, also before going to the event. For example, you can ask someone: Why are you attending this event? Can you tell me about any of the speakers? How are you connected to the hosting organization?
Building new routines need repetition to become good habits. If you’ve ever had other bad habits, who hasn’t, you know the difficulty in changing them. The new rewards make the efforts worth it.
Fred Siegman founded Siegman Consulting Services, Chicago in 1996. A lifelong Serial Connector®, his practice focuses on helping diverse clients seek corporate board of directors positions. Fred received an MBA from Chicago Booth and a B.S. from the University of Illinois Chicago. Learn more about Fred by clicking here.