“Networking.” It's not only a popular buzzword in the business world, but it's a task, like exercising and flossing, that we're supposed to do on a regular basis.
But what does that mean, exactly? In short, networking is about developing relationships with fellow professionals who might be of use to you later. (And vice-versa.) However, unless you’re a total social butterfly, that can sound a little intimidating.
So instead, think of networking in the long-term and short-term view. In the long-run, it’s your goal to develop a circle of professionals you can turn to for advice and, potentially, career opportunities. In the short-term, you’re just trying to meet people and swap contact info, plain and simple.
Just in time for IPSPE, here are a few tips to easily grow your network.
1. Attend show events.
Trade shows as a whole are a hotbed for networking, of course. However, trade shows like IPSPE also offer big parties, bashes and mixers specifically for networking purposes — and, as a bonus, there's always some free food and drinks involved. It's really a no-brainer.
2. Show up right on time.
If you’re someone who finds it hard to approach new people, try going to an event right when it starts. There’s fewer people around, meaning it’s easy to go up to the one guy at the food table and strike up a conversation. (And you avoid the whole "breaking into an established circle of people" thing.)
3. Be natural.
When you meet someone new, keep it simple. Introduce yourself, ask what the other person does and take it from there.At the same time, keep in mind that things don't have to be too formal. What may end as a conversation about your latest marketing campaign or sales event could easily start with an icebreaker like, "Man, the food here is great — what do you think?"
4. Ask smart questions.
Scientists say you develop a rapport faster when you ask open-ended questions. When talking to someone new, ask them questions like “how,” “when” and “why.” It takes you from smalltalk into actual conversation, and it allows you to build bonds faster since people generally like to be asked about themselves.
5. Exchange info.
Keep some business cards with you at all times. And after you get someone’s card, take a moment to jot down a note or two about what you discussed for reference. Sure, you think you'll remember everyone you meet, but when you get back home and start digging through a pile of business cards, you'll be glad you took notes.
6. Stay on the lookout.
When the entire industry flocks to a city for a show, you're bound to run into people everywhere you go: at the hotel bar, in line for a show, even sitting next to you on the plane in. You never know who you might meet, so be open along the way.
Once you're back home and settled in, take some time to follow-up with especially important new connections you made. Say it was great to chat, bring up a good point or two you discussed, and leave the door open for future communication. (And down the road, send them a quick note every now and then, maybe with a link to something they'd find interesting. That way, you're staying in his or her mind, but not being bothersome.) That's how you keep the ball rolling!
Networking Events at IPSPE
Here's just a few places you can mingle with fellow attendees:
Christian Fellowship BreakfastWednesday, Nov. 13, 7 a.m.North Convention Center, Lower Level conference rooms, Coral B. No reservations required, free food, everyone welcome. Non-denominational.
Wave Network ReceptionTuesday, Nov. 12, 4 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.Border GrillNote: This event is the inaugural event for the Wave Network, APSP's new organization for young professionals in the industry.
Welcome Party/APSP Awards of Excellence Tuesday, Nov. 12, 5:15 p.m. - 7:15 p.m.LIGHT Nightclub, the Cirque du Soleil BarMandalay Bay Hotel & CasinoFor more details, click here.
Saber Grills BBQ BashWednesday, Nov. 13, 4:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.The Hot Spot on the Expo FloorMandalay Bay Convention Center
Genesis 3 Family Reunion & Winemaker Dinner Wednesday, Nov. 13, 7 p.m.Vintner Grill @ Nieman MarcusFashion Show Mall - Las Vegas
What are your tips for better networking? Share them in the comments.