This time four weeks ago (along with 700 other people) I was at a conference called Problogger. In the lead up and during the conference there was a lot of talk about being an introvert or an extrovert and how to network/cope with a conference from both sides. Well stay tuned, because I’m going to tell you what I did and some of things a I did will teach you how to network like a pro.
I’ve never really known if I’m an introvert or an extrovert, so during one of my lunch breaks at work I went in search of how to find out which one I was (this mainly involved me googling “introvert or extrovert tests”). Low and behold, after doing 4 different tests (not completely sure how reliable they were), it came out that I am a fence sitter, AKA an ambivert.
After reading all of the blurbs for my results from each of the 4 tests, I realised that it’s actually quite true. I can take it or leave it when it comes to meeting and chatting with new people. When it’s a setting where I know nobody, I’m not completely terrified, but I’ll a bit a little more apprehensive and shy about the situation (for all of about 5 minutes once I start talking to you). If it’s an event where I know at least one person, I’m pretty happy and chatty when striking up a conversation with someone I don’t know.
After the conference I started thinking that I can’t be the only ambivert out there, so realised I should probably share my tips for others. So here it is:
How to Network Like a Pro When You’re an AMBIVERT
1. Know who the speakers are and their areas of expertise
Generally with any type of conference or networking event there is at least one speaker. If you’re lucky there will be several. Read the bio’s of the speakers, read the blurb about the topic they are presenting and google the hell out of them. Have a look at other things they’ve written, or you tube to see if they’ve given other talks. Once you know a bit about them and what they’re about you can use this in conversation later with other attendees.
It’s also a good idea to find a recent photo of them, so you know what they look like in case you happen to be in a lift with them, or line up behind them for lunch, but mainly so you don’t introduce yourself and NOT KNOW that it’s them!
2. Lurk online before the event or arrive early
Most events these days will have a hashtag on twitter or a Facebook group. The Problogger event had both and I lurked to the best of my ability for about 3 months leading up to the event. Sure, I “liked” a lot of wall posts on the FB group, but I didn’t interact too much. It was good though, because I was able to see the a big range of types of bloggers that were attending and what they were about.
So what happens if your event has no real online presence before the event? Make sure you arrive early. I always prefer to get somewhere early and be there when other people start arriving, rather than walk into an already full event. When you’re one of the first people there, it’s a lot easier to strike up a conversation with a comment somewhere along the line of: “I see I’m not the only one who ended up getting here a bit early”
3. Smile at everyone
This is my philosophy when anywhere new. I figure if I have my resting bitch face on, no one would voluntarily say hi to me, but whack on a 50 watt smile and I’m delightful.
I smiled at anyone who was walking toward me, or looked like they were going to have to pass me to go somewhere else. I’d say 99% the time everyone smiles back and about 50% of the time, you get a greeting. 10 – 15% is when the other person slows their walk and then you know you can start chatting.
4. Ask questions and then LISTEN
Once you’ve gotten the initial greetings out of the way, ask questions that you know will have answers where you can carry on a natural line of questions to fuel the conversation. Remember when I said earlier about knowing who the speakers are and what they talk about? Well now is the perfect time to use that information. Ask which speaker they’re most interested in seeing, or have they seen a certain piece of work that the speaker has previously done.
Asking all the questions is great, but just make sure you listen intently while the other person responds. By doing this you can then ask further questions if you want them to elaborate on something they said or file it away for later in the conversation.
5. Follow up
Once the event is finished, make sure you follow up on any connections which you thought were meaningful. Generally if it was the start of something great you might have walked away after swapping cards, or in some cases already added them on Facebook/ Linkedin/ Twitter/ Instagram.
I don’t touch base with people straight away, unless of course I’ve offered to help with something that they’re doing. I will generally leave it at least a week or so. This will mean you’ve had time to process all the things that you learnt and could actually reference something that you learnt when next touching base with people you met.
I realise these 5 thing are not rocket science, but if you’ve gained just one thing, or thought of a different thing you could do when you network, then my job is done.