By Molly B. Koch
Now there’s a true statement. When it comes to networking, SHIFT has hit the ground running in 2011. Our account staff across the country have been attending interesting networking and professional development events. Here in Boston, these meet-ups range from CMO Breakfast Club Series (including presentations from innovative companies like Zip Car, Aetna and Jet Blue) to the BostInnovation 2.0 Launch Party held at Ned Devine’s. Whether it’s a Mobile Monday meet-up or a night at Red Sky with the Boston Celtic’s media Guru, Peter Stringer, SHIFT is there to mingle and network. The company supports this activity too by reimbursing attendance fees –just another perk of being a SHIFTer.
As exciting as these meet-ups may be, it’s really all about what you take away from an event. I’ve had the privilege to attend a variety of events and have come to some conclusions as to what makes attending these meet & greets worth-their-while for me as an employee of SHIFT. Firstly, (before I even set-foot in an event) I do my homework. I research the types of industries and people who plan on attending the event. Secondly, I determine what relative experience SHIFT has in the fields of individuals/companies attending. It’s equally important for me to not only generate excitement at an event about SHIFT, but to find common ground with an individual as to how we can help each other – the goal of networking. You wouldn’t take a test without studying beforehand; to me, the same rules apply for attending an event so I can enjoy myself and make meaningful connections.
Once mentally-prepared for an event it’s all about your delivery and execution – your ability to connect with others and your ability to represent your company. Here is my check list for any event:
- Professional attire – I don’t care if it’s a smelly dive bar or the Microsoft NERD center, dress to impress. My grandfather always said “better overdressed than underdressed.”
- Handshake & eye contact – ‘nough said.
- Confidence is key! There really isn’t anything more intimidating than walking into a room full of strangers all engaged in conversation and being completely and totally alone. (I’ve been there). Take a moment to separate yourself from, well, yourself. Imagine your personal brand and how you can represent your company. Bottom line – if you don’t think of it as awkward – it won’t be awkward.
- Basic manners – If you are walking into the middle of a conversation, a simple “I’m so sorry for interrupting, but I just wanted to quickly introduce myself…” is enough to break the ice and jump into a conversation.
- Fake it until you make it – Smile and act like you’re having a good time (even if you’re feeling uncomfortable at first)…nobody wants to talk to Debbie Downer sitting in the corner.
- Keep your objectives in mind – You’re there to network, not to chow-down on the finger food. Exchange business cards, generate buzz and be sure to follow-up.
These six networking tips work for me. What works best for you?