Episode 132

Episode 132: 3-Part Series: Networking Mastery: Unlocking Your Professional Edge (Part 2)


What you’ll learn in this episode:

Mastering the art of networking to grow your business or career and create a strategic advantage is something every professional should learn. Today’s episode is Part 2 of our 3-part Networking Mastery Series where we delve into strategies for making the most out of your time “in the room” at networking events. Building upon the pre-networking phase that we discussed in last week’s episode; we walk through best practices to make your time a powerful and efficient experience for both you and others.

Whether you’re an ambitious entrepreneur seeking collaborations or a corporate professional aiming for career advancement, this podcast is your guide to unlocking the power of networking and achieving success in today’s competitive landscape.

In this episode, you will learn to:

  • Why leading with the problem you solve, and not your sales pitch, when you’re networking will make you more memorable and land you more connections.
  • How to maintain control of the connections you make and how quickly, and in what way, those people interact and move through your business.
  • Best practices on how to make connections so they can be nurtured powerfully long after the event is over.
  • When the optimal time to have a sales conversation that arises during a networking event (spoiler alert: it’s not while you’re at the event) and how to logistically handle that so you don’t lose a potential sale (and you set yourself up in a more powerful way).

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Hello, everyone, and welcome to part two of the networking mastery, unlocking your professional edge three-part series. I’m so excited to continue the conversation today about networking, and to talk to you about what to do when you’re actually at a networking event. This three part series walks you through the three different phases of networking that I have found to be the most powerful, that I have found, really help you take your networking to the next level, to make it work not only for growing your business and helping you thrive and help you to connect to the people and the clients that you’re dreaming of. But also, to make it an amazing experience for you.


So just to recap, for those of you that may not have been here last week for part one. In part one we talked about what do you do, before you even get to the networking event? What do you do in that pre-networking phase. I call it the pregame part. The part where you get yourself set up for success before you’re even in the room, or you’re even at the event that you’re going to. In that part, we talked about the five best practices that I have found that get you set up to have a really powerful foundation to springboard you into success when you’re actually at the networking meeting. And then, of course, beyond what happens after the networking meeting. The five things that we touched on was being strategic, setting your goals, making sure you do your research, making sure that you have a way for people to connect with you, and then making sure that your mindset is spot on and dialed in for what your purpose is for being at those networking events. If you did not hear that podcast episode, go back and check it out. Because really, the gold is in the pre-game. It really is true that without a solid foundation, you cannot make this phase we’re going to talk to you today work for you. Also gold and what happens after the event – also really important – you can’t get all these pieces in place if you don’t start with number one.


So go check out that episode, it was last week, and make sure that you listen to it and audit your networking events through that lens. And if you don’t have a networking event on the calendar, I want to implore you to go get one and use those five pieces to set up your networking event for success and get it on the calendar. Okay, but for today, today, we’re going to talk about now that you’ve got a networking event, and you’ve done all the planning, what happens when you get in the room.


This is an important piece. And frankly, this is the part where people, often they just think about this. Where they’re in the room, and they’re going to the event, and they have all sorts of thoughts about how that’s going to go down and what they should do. But they’re not really planning for that beforehand, they don’t have a plan for when they’re in the room, they just know that networking usually means I need to be in the room. Well, I’m here to tell you, you want to know exactly what you’re doing when you’re in the room, because that’s going to increase your chances of a doing it and be having it be successful. And then see having it actually be fun and smooth, which is frankly what we all want, right? There’s no point in showing up or doing anything if it’s not going to be worthwhile or feel good, right. And then we tend to shy away from these events, when it doesn’t feel good, or it doesn’t work because we haven’t done the other thing.


So today we’re going to talk about how to make your time at this event. And I want to say whether it’s in person, or virtual, this is what you want to do that you want to make sure that you’re connecting with people in that networking event in a powerful way. So I’m going to share with you the things that I have done that I have found work the most powerfully. And I’m also going to say that if you want to have a fun and successful networking event, you must follow these five steps, you must follow these five steps. Because without it, you’re going to fall short of one of those pieces that we just talked about, like you might show up. But you may not connect with the people that you want to and you may not get the results that you want to, or you might connect with the people, but it’s going to feel terrible and not fun. And you’re not going to want to come back. We don’t want any of those things we want you to show up. We want you to connect with the people that you are meant to connect with. And we want you to have a great time and make it powerful. Because again, this is one of those levers that anybody, doesn’t matter who you are corporate entrepreneur, just starting out season, you can do this. And it’s so, so powerful. So, let’s jump right into it.


So, you’re at the networking event, right, you’re you’ve got the event, you’ve planned for it, and now you’re going to be there. The first thing you want to make sure that you do when you are there is you want to be talking to other people. How many of us have gone in and found somebody that we know, and like clung to them the entire time, or stood off to the side, not in the thick of things. Because we’re just kind of like playing on the sidelines. You do not want to be this person. This is your event. Right? This is for you. It’s really made for you. And I want you to think about it like that. And I want you to own the space. Take up the space when you’re in the room. So I want you to go and I want you to introduce yourself to me But don’t be a wallflower. One of the easiest ways to do this I have found is if you strategically place yourself in the room.


So two places that I find are awesome places to hang out and meet a lot of people and talk to a lot of people is right by the door when people are walking in. Because just like you, when people walk into a room, or even virtually when they’re, you know, it’s a little different when it’s virtual, obviously, because there’s a screen, but you want to think about the people that can be around you. So if you’re by the door, people are walking in, and they have to pass you and they’re looking for other people. And if you’re there to sort of greet them, or make eye contact with them, you will be shocked at how many people you talk to. It’s almost like everyone, I remember one time I played this little game with myself, and I do this a lot. When I go to networking events, I pretend it’s my event. And if I was the hostess, and I was actually greeting people walking in, what would I be doing, and I do that at these networking events. So I will stand by the door. And I will say hello to people. And I will, you know, chat with them. And we will talk, and we will introduce ourselves and all those things. And it’s so easy, because it’s almost like people are coming to you. Because again, they’re coming in the room and they’re looking for someone and you’re right there and you’re smiling and making eye contact, it’s so simple. So that is one great place to position yourself right by the door when people walk in.


The other place is by the bar. You know, a lot of people come into these events, they want a cocktail, there’s a bar, if you go hang out over there, where people tend to congregate while they’re in line or waiting, or they kind of get their drink, and they’re kind of coming off. And again, they’re looking for people in the room, you can be right there. And that is just such a fun place to meet people and have people come to you essentially. So again, you don’t want to be a wallflower, you want to interact with people, you want to strategically position yourself in places where you can meet people where there’s the flow of people. And I found even if this is virtual, sometimes I will look at the screen around me and I’ll look at sometimes people will put their names and what they do or what their business is, what their businesses are. And I will end up you know, kind of DM-ing them in the chats, you know, you know, quietly personally, you know, not to the to everyone, but I will send them a personal message through the chat and zoom for example, if that’s where it is.


And I will strike up a conversation with them. A lot of times at networking events that are virtual, they’ll also ask people to introduce themselves in the chat. And I will look strategically at who is there. And who do I want to connect with. And so I kind of use those people around me in the same way that if I was at a physical space, I would, you know, look for the people that are physically in that same space as me. This also brings me to the second point, which is you want to go back to that list of people all that research you did in part one of the people that you definitely wanted to meet, and you want to find those people, where are they? Right? If you’re in a room, you want to figure out where are those people? And how do you find them? And you can even ask some of the people that you’re talking to like, “Hey, do you know so? And so? Can you point me in their direction? Or do you know them? Can you introduce me and walk me over” that kind of a thing. So think about that list of people and find them, if they’re speakers, a lot of times, you know, they have a name tag or whatever you can find them in that room of people, you want to make sure that you go to that list and you find those people that you strategically wanted to find. The other piece of this when you do it virtually is if people are introducing themselves in the chat, you can actually look at the chat, oh, that’s the person I know it’s them. And then you can privately check them. And you can meet them in that way.


The other thing is people usually have their names and their businesses, you know, in the little box when you’re on a virtual screen. So it’s very easy for you to see, oh, there’s John Doe, who I want him to meet, right. And you can privately DM them, I think those the ability to pull that conversation out of the mix, and into more of a private and intimate conversation, whether you’re literally talking to somebody one on one in a physical space, or you’re doing it virtually, is so powerful. And that is really what you want to make sure that you’re doing. So you’re talking to people and they’re going back to that list, and you’re making sure that you find them and you connect with them. The other thing is, as you’re meeting people, you want to strategically think about how you introduce yourself. So often people will say like, what do you do, right? Or you ask people like what is your business? And what do people usually say is “I’m so and so and I help people do this”, or “I’m so and so and I work with these kinds of people doing these things”.


I want to give you a best practice that totally revolutionized the way that I network and the way that people leaned in to hear what I have to say, because nobody else is doing this. Almost everybody that you talk to does exactly what I just said. They talk about who they are – like the name of their business and who they help. And frankly, that’s fine, but it is not as powerful. We know as marketers, that what people care about are problems. Your brain is wired to scan your environment and everything that you do for problems. And so therefore, when we are looking at an environment looking at people, we are filtering them through this lens (I hate to say it) of how can you help me with my problems. And that is a piece that we actually also file people in our brains around. So again, for an example, I’m not thinking of John Smith in my brain, I am thinking of a plumber leak in my ceiling, and then John Smith, the plumber. The problem always comes first.


Really good copywriting also leverages this. You read a great Instagram caption, or some promotional ad, and what does it start with? It starts with “are you having leaks in your ceiling where you don’t know where they’re coming from?” They start with the problem, because the problem is the hook. So when you’re at a networking event, I want you to try this – Instead of “Hi, I’m Jess Miller, and I help people blah, blah, blah, blah”, I want you to start with the problem. So you can say something like, if you are a chef, for example, you could say something like, “you know how most families don’t eat together at dinner, and when they do, they’re usually eating takeout that’s not really healthy for them. I’m Jess Miller, and I’m a chef that helps families come together by cooking healthy food in a snap”. Do you see how much more powerful that is? If you’re somebody who identifies with that problem, and let me just say, I bet many people on this call identify with that, you are immediately drawn in. And when you are hooked by the problem, and then the person you’re talking with positions themselves as a solution to that problem you care about. you are listening! you are listening.


So I want you all to take this framework and I want you to think about what is the problem that you solve? And how can you start with speaking to people and networking events with that problem. And from there, I want you to then tell them what you do to solve it. Just by doing that alone, you make yourself infinitely more valuable to people. And the next question almost always is, “that’s so interesting. Tell me more about it. How do you do that!” And that is really how these conversations can get started. Because again, the problem is a hook. People are thinking of you, and they’re even at these networking events, because they have a problem they’re trying to solve. And you can be the answer to that problem. So I want you to introduce yourself and share problem first and solution second, and watch how differently people react to you. And how many conversations you get in that are more powerful. People will remember you by the problem you solve. I joke with my clients, and I’ve said this even on social media – nobody cares what you do. They don’t care what your business is. They care about how you help them solve problems. And when you can show them that, then they care about all the other stuff. So think about that.


The fourth thing is around the call to action. So again, as I mentioned in the previous podcast, we are not at these networking events to sell people. It’s not a sales pitch fest. But we are here to make meaningful connections and to create relationships with people. So when we think about these events, I want you to think about your call to action to be connecting. How do you connect with these people? And always, always, always asking people to connect. That is your call to action. So when you’re standing there talking to them, as we mentioned earlier, you have a plan with how you’re going to connect with people – business card, electronic on social media, LinkedIn, whatever it is, you know how that’s going to happen.


You ask them, “can we connect? can I connect with you? Are you on LinkedIn?” And they’ll say, “Yeah, great. Me too. What is your name?” Pull your phone out and do it right there in that moment. “Oh, John Doe, let me put it is this you? Okay, I’m going to connect with you right now. And I’m going to send you a message”. Hi, it’s Jessica Miller, it was so great to meet you at the whatever when we chatted about XYZ, and I send them a quick message. You’re immediately then connected to people. It’s not happening later. It’s not like oh, I’ll find you on Instagram. Call me. None of that. It’s literally happening in that moment. And the call to action for you at these events is connection. Connect with these people. Here’s why this is so important.


Number one, because there’s only a finite amount of time during that event, that you’re actually going to get to connect with this with these people. Right? You could talk it could be a great conversation, but it’s like five minutes. You want that connection so that you can continue the conversation. And that is really important. The other piece of it is relationships take nurturing. And so what’s really happening at that networking event is it’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship. And so in order to continue that relationship, you need to be connected to the person somewhere in some way. And so you want to make sure that happens in that moment and you connect. Do not talk to anybody that you do not connect with. So call to action – connect. Do it on the spot. And make sure that you do not leave that event without being connected to people.


And this is really where it’s fun when you have a goal, like I’m going to connect with five people. It’s a challenge, like I’m collecting five friends. I’m making five relationships. And you do not leave until you have connected with those people. And any person that you talk to you, do not leave without connecting with them. Okay, and you do it on spot. Be efficient. Okay, so that’s really important, your call to action is connect and make sure it happens in that moment.


The last thing, which I think is also equally as important as the connection, a call to action is there is a likelihood that when you are chatting with people, they might need your services. Or you might need theirs. We’re in business together, or we’re at a professional networking event, part of the reason we’re there is for growth. And that means that you might find clients or potential clients that could be yours, or they could be interested in your service. Or they could be connected to someone who might be and they want to talk more about that. So it starts to morph into a sales conversation, even though you are in a networking event.


My best practice recommendation to people is to take those conversations offline. Tell people this is really interesting, I would love to talk to you more about that and I’m happy to share more about what we do and how we work with our clients. Let’s schedule a time to connect after this event. And literally take your phone out and say to them, “let’s look at your calendar and say, I’ve got time next Tuesday at 3pm, Wednesday at 10am. Or I’m making this up Thursday at 1pm. Do any of those which one of those work for you? Which one of those work for you?” And let them tell you right there. And then book it. And we’re like Actually, none of those work. But what about Friday night at nine, that works for me. Great, let me send you a message right now. And you book the call immediately.


That way two things happen. Number one, you are not trying to cram in the sales conversation with a million people around you. And so many things happening – is somebody else coming up and interrupting the conversation in the moment when you’re just standing there with this person. The other piece of it is if you’re really there to network and meet with this person, you can use that time to actually get to know them without the pressure of the sales conversation and without having to go into all of that detail. Because you’ve already put that on the calendar, now it’s locked. And you can just have fun and continue with what we talked about where the purpose of you being at these events is about building connections and getting to know people. And you’ve got that sales conversation locked on there for next week on Friday at nine. And you can go about your night. It just eases all the pressure. It’s a commitment, and if people are really serious, they absolutely will book that call with you. And then you can just keep moving forward.


I have found this to be so powerful, because you’re not trying to do all the things at one time and you’re really giving that sales conversation the space and the time and place it needs so that you can do this in a powerful way. And you’re not rushing through or getting interrupted or screwing up sort of the networking piece of it. But you’re pulling through that sales opportunity. If there is one, I have found people appreciate that it goes so much more smoothly. And then when you actually have that call, you can get the information and dig into the information that you really need to find out if this person’s a fit, and you can really help them. The other thing it does is it doesn’t leave that long tail. So you want to always remain in control of those kinds of conversations. And you want to make sure that you’ve got that call on the calendar before you break. Like oh, we’ll catch up or let me just drop you this connection in LinkedIn. And then I’ll drop you a line and we can find a time. Those kinds of things drag out.


I always tell people retain control of how quickly people move through your funnel if you can. And if they want to have that conversation, move them to that next step, which is booking the call. So get that call on the calendar. And frankly, this is the best practice even if you’re in a potential sales call or on a sales call with someone and maybe they have to go, ask their partner or they have to, they want to think about something that you’re talking about on a sales call, always get that next touch point. “Okay, that’s great. Take the time you need to think about it. How about we connect again on Friday at nine o’clock” and then you get that thing on the calendar and it’s there to move people through. It’s very powerful. It shows a commitment. You know who the people that are serious and you’re moving people through that funnel. So make sure that you move those sales conversations offline and give them the space that they need.


So to recap what those best practices are when you’re in a networking event, number one, don’t be a wallflower, you want to be talking to people, you want to get in the space where you can connect with a lot of different people. If you’re in a physical space, stand by the door, or stand by the bar, those are the best places to stand. And make sure that you’re making eye contact and connecting with people, you will be shocked at how many people you talk about. If you’re in a virtual environment, scan your screen, see who’s in there, take those conversations into the personal chat, and connect with them that way to go back to your list and make sure that those people that you said you want to talk to at this event or you want to meet, you actually find them and meet them. So ask people if they know who so and so is if you’re at an event and you are looking for the certain person, or if they’re a speaker, you know, and they’re wearing maybe a badge speaker, you can usually pretty easily identify those people. But you want to make sure that you take that list and you pull it through.


So make sure that you connect with those people that you identified from your research are going to be in that room and you want to absolutely connect with three when you are sharing about yourself. And people will always ask you what you do who you are, right, that’s part of meeting people. Start with the problem, tell people the problem you solve, and then position yourself as a solution to that problem. That is the most powerful way for you to not only be stuck in people’s mind, because the problem is the hook. But to strategically position yourself in a place of value as the person who can solve that problem. And you will be amazed at how many people lean in want to know more. And remember you. So problem of first, when sharing and introducing yourself, for your call to action at these networking events is to connect with people, do not leave that room without connecting with anybody that you talk to make sure you pull your phone out right in that moment. Let them scan the QR code, connect with them on LinkedIn, whatever your process and plan is that you set up in the pregame, you want to make sure you pull that through.


So anyone you talk to you connect with, do not leave that event without connecting with people. And if you have a goal of connect with a certain amount of people, make sure you don’t leave until you hit that goal. And then last but certainly not least, if you’re networking starts to develop into a sales conversation, take that sales conversation offline, tell people this is a really great, I’d love to talk to you about this further, let’s set up some time where we can actually sit down and discuss this. Let’s whip out our phones right now and find a time for next week. Give them three times and say which one of these works for you. And if they say none of them, say okay, what does work for you, and then triangulate your calendar and get them on your calendar. Do not leave that event without getting that on the calendar. And try not to have that sales conversation shoved into the moment in that networking event where there’s a ton of stuff going on, you’re rushed for time people are interrupting.


It’s just not a best practice. So it’s awesome. If those conversations happen, and they do happen, and the more you network, you’ll see it happening more, because people will know you and they’ll be hearing about you and you’re kind of everywhere to everyone and the word is on the street. So people want to talk to you. Sometimes they’re coming to those events, because you’re going to be in the room and they want to have those conversations but give it this time in the space that it needs by sequestering it in a calendar invite for after the event is over. So I want you to think about your networking events that are coming up, I want you to write these things down, I want you to go over it in your head, I want you to plan how you’re going to introduce yourself and how you’re going to put that problem first. And then you solving that problem. Second, preparing for these events, even in the smallest ways make it so powerful. This is really how you take what happens in that room, virtual or in person, to the next level. Because you’re really moving through the night and creating the flow and creating the results. Because of your intention. And because you’re prepared. And because you have a plan. And because you know what to do in the moment.


One of the hardest things about networking events is people feel like they’re on stage and they’re in the spotlight and they don’t know what to do. Well guess what, you never have to feel that way again. Because now you’re going to know exactly what you want to do. And you’re going to know exactly how to talk about it. And you’re going to know exactly how to move people onto your calendar and around in a way that feels awesome to everybody. And you’re just going to glide through that that night collecting relationships, creating opportunities, potentially connecting with new clients. And it’s going to be a win-win-win for everybody. So make sure you go through these five things and look at those networking events on your calendar coming up and put them through this lens so that you are a networking superstar when you are in that room.


So next week, we’re going to talk about part three of the 3-part series. And that part three is what do you do after the networking event? Because there is an integral piece of pulling this through. And if we are thinking about impact and growth for our businesses, if we are thinking about new clients, better client experiences, bigger impact connection with other people, there has to be something that happens after the networking event. And you have to have a plan around that too. And there are best practices to make that happen in a really meaningful and robust way. Next week, we are going to talk about that. So if you’re not subscribed to this podcast, you want to get subscribed to it right now so you don’t miss when that drops because that one is amazing. And again, it’s putting all of these pieces together that really knock it out of the park. So until next week, everyone have an awesome week!