It is the inevitable topic of conversation at a networking event:
Tell me about your job.
When I explain my life's work -- teaching leaders to achieve
their dreams through powerful public speaking -- my conversation
partner often shrugs and says, "Oh, I could never deliver a speech.
I get too nervous."
My response: "What do you think you are doing right now?"
Make no mistake, when you network, you are delivering a series of
minipresentations. If you don't know how to put your best foot
forward in these business-critical situations, you can forget about
building your business or advancing your career.
Master networkers realize that attitude and preparation are vital
ingredients for success. How do these pros set themselves up as
winners in the networking arena? Let's examine a dynamic dozen
1. Target carefully the events to attend. Networking is a
strategic endeavor. Attend gatherings that make sense for your
business or career aims.
2. Craft a 15-second elevator speech. Tell people how you have
helped others and, by extension, how you can help them.
3. Arrive on time and stay late. Take advantage of any pre-event
time dedicated strictly to networking; this is where business gets
4. Don't stand in a clump of people you work with. You want new
customers or a new job, right? Spend time with new acquaintances who
may hold the key to your dreams.
5. Use a firm handshake and solid eye contact. First impressions
are critical. Get maximum benefit from your nonverbal tools.
6. Be prepared for basic questions. Think of the times you have
encountered people who stammer when confronted with softballs like,
"What's new?" or "What do you do?" Have a meaningful answer on the
tip of your tongue.
7. Carry a thick stack of business cards. How frustrating is it
to make a solid connection, then not be able to follow up because
the person's business cards were left back at the office?
8. Get others talking about themselves. I like to remind myself
that I have two eyes, two ears and one mouth. Use them in
9. Limit your conversations to five minutes. If you make a
positive connection, agree to meet over lunch or coffee at a later
10. Steer clear of the buffet table. Food between your teeth,
garlic breath and no free hand to shake. Need I say more?
11. Position yourself at a traffic choke point. This raises the
odds that people will have to make eye contact and -- gasp --
actually start a conversation with a stranger.
12. Follow up quickly. A brief e-mail, call, or my favorite, the
handwritten note, works wonders to solidify your new contacts.
A note of caution that will contribute to your healthy attitude:
Networking does not mean selling; it means relationship building.
You are in for a letdown if you assume immediate results. Deals are
rarely sealed at networking events, though many are born there.
One more piece of advice: Don't be a spin-your-wheels networker,
frantically racing to gather as many business cards as possible. The
master networker realizes quality trumps quantity. One or two solid
connections are far more valuable than a dozen meaningless quickies.
Successful business leaders understand that networking revolves
around a healthy attitude and plenty of preparation. That sounds
like a perfect prescription to develop your next client or career