Sophisticated jazz music hums through the elegant space filled with overdressed and ambitious professionals. You see someone you’d like to approach but you don’t know when the conversation you’re waiting on will finally end, or if it ever will. Nervously, you make eye contact with your target—you’re determined and will do anything to ensure that the next conversation is yours. Finally, with laser-focus, you seize your opportunity the second it appears.
You’ve been in this terrifying situation before: a networking event. To avoid dejectedly walking away with a generic email address and the memory of a wasted conversation, you can alter your strategy to ensure things turn out differently.
Firstly, your goal is to receive a card, not a job offer. An initial project pitch shouldn’t include every deliverable of a major project, so why should your personal pitch be any different? Your goal is to put your name on your target’s radar and to receive a card or some sort of tangible, personal, information. If you get this small and easy step right, you can prove your capability in a more private setting later; in a packed room a manager will talk to dozens of people and he or she likely won’t remember the specifics you mentioned. Keep the pitch short and memorable. Mention your strongest capacities and then start asking questions.
Secondly, listen. Your potential contact has the answers to every question you might have. Asking a few questions and listening to those answers will give you the information you need to frame yourself to fit their needs. You wouldn’t blindly propose a project to a client, so why would you do the same with yourself?
Thirdly, be human. Do you have shared interests? Did you both attend the same university, or play the same sport? Reach into that personal connection and, again, let the other person talk. Business is personal, and these small hooks can make your brand more memorable. You’ll show that when a project or task isn’t going 100% as planned, there’ll be chemistry with the people you’ll work with.
Lastly, let the conversation end naturally, and then move on before you talk your way out of a lead. You have more people to meet with and your contact has more potential candidates to speak with. If you’re awarded a card, follow-up immediately that night with a few anecdotes recalling the conversation you had earlier that day.
The sight of a personal reply from your desired contact in your inbox will be worth getting jazzed about. Now it’s time to deliver. For more on networking and project management, listen to our podcast, here.