Power Networking

How's this for a networking goal: Get to know so many people in the meetings and hospitality industry that no matter who moves to what job - and people do move a lot - you'll still have a Rolodex full of great contacts.

You can do it by using these 10 tips to power up your networking. Use them the next time you're at an industry event; and start reaping the benefits - a network to tap into whenever you need it.

1. Cold feet as you enter? Focus on your desired outcome - knowing more people in the industry - and not on the process. As you visualize meeting just the right contact, your timidity will vanish.

2. Leave your good buddy at the door to make her own way. While friendship is great, you need to be a single to maximize your contacts. Two people coming up to a stranger can be a little intimidating!

3.To help you make that first contact, look for someone all alone. He will probably welcome you joyfully. If it seems as if everyone there is already talking, go to the food table and start a conversation with a fellow eater.

4. Feet still cold? Pretend this is your own party. Go up to someone and welcome her to the event.

5. Of course you'll introduce yourself while reaching out to shake hands. But a bad handshake can destroy your image, so ask a friend to test your grip. A wet-fish handshake makes you seem ineffectual or worse - but a bone-cracking grip endears you to no one. Check out the happy medium between flabby and vise-like. If you tend to go in either direction, practice until you do it right without thinking.

6. While most attendees at your event have come to meet people, sometimes you and your outstretched hand are ignored. What to do? Simply say, "Nice to see you" and walk on. That person may have just heard some bad news, or may be deep in thought. It's no reflection on you - just move on.

7. While networking-event chatter is rarely profound, it doesn't have to be dull. A little planning will perfect your chat in no time. For example, you can start with a question, "What did you think about the program today?" Questions based on your common experience at the event signal your flattering interest in what your new acquaintance thinks.

8. Never forget to ask "What do you do?" Make sure your own answer, when you are asked, is more than a job title. Try to describe your job, and use action verbs. This makes a good cue to start exchanging business cards. Always ask for the other person's card. Write the date and event name on his card so you can place him later on. Make sure your own cards are easily accessible and in a case to keep them clean.

9. Never bring up the election, worship practices, or anything else having to do with politics or religion. These are taboo subjects, with good reason. A business friendship can go for years without ever touching on them.

10. Finally, maintain that network you went to all that trouble to create. When you get back to the office, file those business cards. Send the folks you met brief notes saying how glad you were to meet them. If you promised something, send it. Then add regular contact every few months to keep your power network alive and working wonderfully.

By Priscilla Richardson, MA, JD, a professional speaker and seminar leader specializing in networking, business writing, and leadership. Contact her at (540) 992-1279 or [email protected] Subscribe to her free monthly magazine, Communication Insights, at [email protected]