Networking Lessons at High Point Market

Or how to shake hands, exchange cards & make small talk

Nothing replaces the power of a face-to-face conversation, a handshake or a hug. Nothing.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I can work the online room like a debutante – I want to talk to everyone. And you also know I share an extraordinary amount of information on social networks. Being online is my business but the networks I use are just tools to help me connect with people. A conversation that takes place in 140 characters or less will never replace a face-to-face conversation.

High Point Furniture market – a networking bonanza

Julia & Steve Elton from Brown JordanAs I write this, I’m in High Point North Carolina attending the bi-annual furniture market, enjoying a lot of face-to-face discussions. As WithIt’s 2012 president, it’s my mission to better connect our constituents, both online and off, as well as introduce our organization to people who may not know us yet. Trade events like this give me an opportunity to start the conversations in person – and then continue them digitally when I get home.

Face-to-face networking take a lot of time and energy but what makes them effective? Smart business people know it’s not the wine, the hors d’oeuvres or the showroom – it’s the people. This week I’ve met some people that make me feel like I’m looking directly into the sun and some that leave me wondering why they bothered to come if they didn’t want to talk to anyone.

Below are a few of the lessons I try to live by when I’m at an event to meet people. The list is far from complete so read it with an eye of what you can add.

Be present

sharing face to face Put your dumb smart phone down and look up and into the eyes of the person in front of you. You might know the person from Twitter or Facebook but you’re here now to connect on a human (not digital) level and updating your status robs you both of the gift standing in front of you – each other.

Hint – If it’s appropriate, ask someone to snap a picture of the two of you together for sharing on Facebook or Twitter.

Be yourself

No one wants to meet the used car salesman who’s glad-handing everyone who walks into the room. The conversation may get around to business – or it may not. Either way, saying goodbye is the best time to ask for a business card – and ask if you can share yours as well. 

Hint – I keep my business cards in my pants pocket or an outside pocket of my purse so I’m not rooting through the Mary Poppins bag when it’s time to hand them out.

Be the hostess

Sharing is caringWhether it’s your party or not, work the room. Find conversations with 2 or 3 people and jump in. It’s easier to join a smaller group than larger one and if the conversation isn’t what you were looking for, it’s easier to move onto the next.

Hint – If you’re stuck in a dead-end conversation, offer to introduce the person to someone or another group. Your ability and willingness to connect will be remembered and appreciated.

Be positive

Networking events are not the place to gossip. Don’t let negativity against a mutual colleague be the uniting force in a conversation – because it will never progress past THAT conversation. And who wants to be remembered for that?

Hint – Be careful not to be judgemental. The person sharing with you may see you as trustworthy and not realize their comments are being perceived as gossipy. Gently turn the conversation to something more positive.

Be smart

It’s about me and you – togetherThis one should be a no-brainer but it’s not. Just because you’ve chatted with someone on social media and then met them at a networking event doesn’t make you BFF’s. Keep your filter on and remember that getting in a stranger’s car is never a good idea – regardless of your age.

Hint – If you want to continue the conversation, invite others to join you so you’re not alone.

Be generous

We all love to talk about ourselves, to make others laugh and to add value to conversations. Build others up by asking about what matters to them. Think of the fodder you’ll have for continuing the conversation when you follow up.

Hint – Practice being a journalist and ask questions. Use the 5 W’s wisely – if someone’s reluctant to share personal information, turn the ship around and focus on business.

When I’m at a face-to-face event, it’s all about taking that shortened version of myself and making it more real – and then following up with an email or call. After all, I’ve never received any business from Twitter – but I have done business with people I met on Twitter.

Social media is a tool, not a connection in and of itself.

Got social media questions? Follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook or connect with me on LinkedIn – I’m always on.

10 Responses to “Networking Lessons at High Point Market”

  1. Thank you Julia. These are helpful reminders for someone like me especially for face to face, larger networking events like the Tweetstock 007 event that we both attended.

    I think that there has to be a balance between online and in person networking. It doesn’t matter the order ie you can start with connecting online and follow-up with face to face and then more online OR you can start with face to face and follow up online and then face to face again. Like any relationship variety and finding ways to stay connected are important.

    This weekend I was reminded again of the importance of taking an online networking break to attend theatre performances. My phone battery was low so I had to unplug for awhile and I’m glad I did! As is often the case I reconnected with colleagues and friends sharing a phenomenal experience as well as making a wonderful new contact by gushing about theatre, as I am prone to do. It’s all about making connections – online and face to face.

    Thank you again Julia!

    • Julia Rosien says:

      THanks so much for stopping by Lisa and for your comment. I was thinking while reading your comment that being on your phone sends another message as well – boredom. When I see people checking their phones at a networking event, I think well, we’ve lost that one. It might be a myriad of other reasons that person checks the phone but it really does send a message to those standing near by.

      Thanks again for adding your perspective!

  2. Another tip that I always make a point in doing is introducing myself, providing a confident handshake, and more important, look into the person’s eyes when speaking with them. It displays genuine interest in what they are saying. Be appreciative for the input (no matter what it is) and ALWAYS state that you are very pleased to have met them.

    • Julia Rosien says:

      Morning Trina,
      I couldn’t agree more! I cringe a little inside when someone offers me a limp handshake. While it might speak to their confidence (or lack of it) it also makes me wonder if they just don’t want to invest in me. I mean, if they can’t at least offer me a complete handshake, does that mean they really don’t care to get to know me?

      Thanks so much for stopping by and continuing the conversation!

  3. John Lusher says:

    Although I could not be there in person, I was in spirit Julia! This is a great post with a GOLDMINE of information for the seasoned networker such as myself or the person attending an event for the first time! I love the Be Generous tips, along with the rest of the tips; pretty difficult to single out just one!

    I would add, especially for the seasoned networking professional, look for the wallflowers. We have all seen them, the ones that are shy and not leaving the comfort of the wall or chair. Go introduce yourself, find out about them and then introduce them to people you know. Break the ice for them. They will feel more comfortable and will appreciate that you took the time to help them!

    Good networking!!

    • Julia Rosien says:

      Hi John,

      Thanks for the comments and the extra tip! I couldn’t agree more about searching out the wallflower. I’ve made some great contacts just by going up to someone who is alone in the crowd. And there have been times when I’ve been that person, searching for someone to talk to – actually, I think we’ve all been there. Thankfully there are people like you out there.

      By the way, you were missed this week!

  4. Melonie Dodaro says:

    These are very important reminders on what we should be doing when we come to face with other people. I would definitely hate talking to someone who’s talking to another person on the phone. It just doesn’t make sense. And I would definitely love a firm handshake and a look in the eye. For that would show genuine interest. I would most definitely do the same to people I meet. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Great as always Julia…..I am just starting to go to more networking events so will taking all this to heart and practice 🙂

  6. Dave Delaney says:

    I love your post, Julia. It’s a good reminder about how to make the most of attending a networking event. Well done.

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