If you've been networking for a while, you know that it takes time to meet people. You've got to spend time finding places and activities where you can meet the right people (i.e. your target market or those who are well-connected) and you've got to spend time actually getting introduced and getting to know them. For many of us though, time is at a premium. We often skip out on networking events such as association meetings and chamber events because we feel like we don't get a good return (i.e. the number of people we meet) on our investment (of time).
While we know that networking is a process of building long-term mutually beneficial relationships, we sometimes want to shortcut that process. Here is an insiders trick to meet many more people in less time while attending the same number of events.
It's an insiders trick because I have used it, unintentionally or perhaps non-deliberately many, many times. As an executive in a membership-based organization, I am (most of the times) the hostess of the event. So I am at the check-in table, greeting people as they come in to the event. If there are 100 people who show up at the event, I am usually able to say at least hello to half of them. That's 50 people contacted in two hours. A very good use of time if you're trying to maximized exposure and contacts.
But what do you do if you're not the host or hostess? Here is an easy idea you can use. First, you can literally become a host or hostess by contacting the organizer and volunteering to work at the check-in table. Most people who are running a luncheon or mixer will be very pleased to have the extra help, letting them troubleshoot or freeing them up talk to their most important clients or members. If you're not familiar with the organization or the event, spend a little time getting to know more about it so you can answer questions intelligently. You should be able to meet a good portion of the people attending the event.
Realistically, you probably won't have time to talk much with the people coming in, but here's where you leverage the opportunity. Tell them, "I am helping the organizer today, so I won't be able to talk to you later. Can I have your card and get in touch later?" Or you could say, "Oh, John Smith! I've been looking forward to meeting you, but I won't have time today since I'm helping out. Can I get your card? Maybe we can have coffee or I can drop you an email? Thanks."
If you don't feel comfortable doing that, check with the hostess and see if there's any way you can get the attendee information in return for your help. This may or may not work. It depends on how well you know the hostess, whether the information is otherwise available and how protective the organization is. You might be able to find an online directory and put contact information together with the names and faces you saw at the event.
This is an easy way (and especially good for the less extroverted networking) to get exposure and meet a lot more people in less time.
Beth Bridges has attended over 2,000 networking events in the last 7 years as the Membership Director and Chief Networking Officer of a large west coast chamber of commerce.
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Copyright Beth Bridges, 2010
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