by Stever Robbins
Today's topic is how to meet people at networking events.
I went to a really fun get-together of social media folks. They graciously invited me to speak for the first five minutes, and I graciously spoke for ten minutes and eight seconds. But who's counting? You can see the video at http://qik.com/video/68444.
After the talk, one eager person came up, thrust his business card in my hand, smiled, and zipped off. It was beautiful. Like some fabulous ballet routine, with a touch of modern dance, informed with a Twyla Tharp sensibility. And now, days later, I'm staring at his business card fondly. Do I remember him? Yes. Was it good for me? Sure! I'm getting an entire podcast episode out of it. Was it good for him? Nope. The card went straight into the trash after I outlined this episode.
Let's get something straight: before they've met you, no one cares who you are, unless you're rich and famous, in which case you don't care who they are. If you're going to connect, connect. Stop. Talk about a shared interest. If you're at a Social Media Breakfast, you know the shared interest–it's social media! Hallelujah!
I'm about to share my most closely-guarded introvert secret. I'm incredibly shy. At least I've learned to say "Hi!" to someone I haven't met yet. I say, "Hi! We haven't met, yet. My name's Stever." It's amazing how well that works. It's equally amazing that I didn't learn that until I was in my 30s.
Then comes small talk. I love small talk. No, I don't... I hate small talk. Here's a typical small talk conversation from my end. "So, you have a wife? Husband? Polyamorous family unit? Dead? Oh, I'm so... Yes, yes, fire is a terrible way ... Well, look on the bright side, at least they weren't kidnapped and tor... Oh. Oh, my. Oops. I sure put my foot in my mouth that time. (nervous laughter) Well look at the time. (Here's a tissue.) I have to run... Bye, now! Er, excuse me, are you the manager? My new friend at table five is having a breakdown. Could you get someone to look after him? Thanks!"
Small talk's not my thing. But if I can speak to the crowd for five minutes about something interesting, people who share that interest come and introduce themselves. No pressure, no need for small talk. That's why I do public speaking; it's my way of saying, "Hi! I'm Stever. Please come talk to me."
So this guy did come talk to me. Only he didn't talk. He gave me his card and pirouetted away. He could have talked. He could have discussed social media. He could have complimented my nametag, which I wear on the right lapel.
Got that? It's a whole 'nother tip I'm sneaking in here: wear your nametag on your right. Then when you shake hands with someone, they naturally look straight at it and can easily learn your name. Nametag goes on your right. Your right. Your right.
And he would also have been right, if he'd just said something. When you're meeting someone, stop and talk. Ask about them. Learn about their hopes, dreams, fears, and aspirations. One of my favorite questions is, "What gives your life meaning?" If they don't walk away thinking you're loony, you'll have some great conversation. And they'll remember you as the person they really connected with. If you must talk about yourself, tie it to the topics they care about. "I love kids, too. My five-year-old nephew wrote my name as his first word." You can leave out the part where he wrote it in permanent magic marker on your brother-in-law's face when he was passed out after a drinking binge. Or leave it in–after all, you have a reputation to maintain.
When you get their card, immediately write something on the back to remind you who they are. "Invented solar powered electric sheep. Would make good guest on radio show." Otherwise, you'll get home with a stack of business cards that will sit on your desk for six years until you finally throw them out.
While your pen's out, don't just give them your card. First, jot on the back what you want them to remember about you. Then, they'll have a reason to call. "Stever does interviews for his podcast, call him to do an interview about your sheep fetish."
Then you can simply say, "It's been a pleasure meeting you." Smile and walk away. What could be easier?
Let's recap: Put your nametag on your right lapel. Walk up to someone you don't know. Say, "Hi, we haven't met yet." Or be a speaker—they'll come to you. Then ask all about them until they say something interesting. Offer them a reason to stay in touch. Exchange cards, writing on the back so they remember you and you remember them. And, that’s all that it takes to make networking a snap!
Oh, and be sure to check out this amazing Quick Tip on storing business card information electronically so you can stay organized.
This is Stever Robbins. If you have a question about how to Work Less and Do More, e-mail email@example.com or leave voicemail at 866-WRK-LESS.
Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!
- http://www.TwylaTharp.org - A link to choreographer Twyla Tharp's web site
- http://qik.com/video/68444 - Stever's Social Media Breakfast video
- http://blog.steverrobbins.com/getitdoneguy/2008/04/ten-career-lies-v4/ - Handouts for the Social Media Breakfast