Over the past few weeks, we’ve talked about using the RELIEF method to get the most benefit from networking at a conference. We’ve gone through the pre-conference steps of Researching what you need to know and Energizing so you’re performing at your best. Now we’re going to talk about the first thing you need to do once you arrive at your event: Look around.
A popular conference can be swarmed with people. Large crowds of speakers, sponsors, volunteers, and attendees can overwhelm and intimidate even the most outgoing networker. You can mitigate these fearful feelings and navigate your networking with confidence if you take time to look around and collect valuable information. When you use the “look around” method, you remind yourself to pay attention to your surroundings in ways that benefit yourself and those around you.
Look Around at People, Places, and Opportunities
You may have heard of the old rule of etiquette that goes like this: whenever you enter a room, hold your shoulders back, step off to one side, and count to 15 while you observe your surroundings. Besides giving you a confident presence, this act gives you a chance to look around and notice the important details you’ll need for successful networking. After you’ve collected yourself, you may even walk through the room a few times and look for these details:
- Identify the people you know. Sure, you’re at a networking event to meet new people, but you should also reconnect with people you already have relationships with. Later, you’ll take a few minutes to catch up with them and introduce them to other people you know. You might even want to work the room together — you never know who might make a good networking wingman or wingwoman.
- Seek out the people you want to meet. If you’ve done your research, you may already have a list of conference attendees, speakers, or sponsors that you want to catch up with. If you were REALLY on your game, you might also have pre-arranged to meet them here.
- Observe the body language of the crowd. Keep an eye out for individuals and groups who display open body language. That may be someone standing alone, looking around nervously for someone to talk to, or hiding their shyness behind texting on a smartphone. That may also be groups of two to four people who have their feet or shoulders pointed outward, inviting someone else into the discussion. These are the people you may later want to approach and converse with.
- Scope out the best ways to access the bar, the bathrooms, and convenient places to chat. You might have already done this while you were researching the location for the event, but go ahead and do it again. Not only will this knowledge make your life easier, but you’ll be able to help others if they want another drink or need to make a pit stop. And you’ll know the best spot to stand out of the way of the crowd while you hold a conversation.
Now that you’ve observed your situation and prepared yourself appropriately, you should feel incredibly confident about your networking abilities. In our next post, we’ll explain the best way to introduce yourself and others to new people.