Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending a great panel discussion on diversity and inclusion (sponsored by the Association of Employment Professionals.) The program included ample time to network so I made sure to get there extra early. Shortly after my arrival, I ran into Neal Fay, a recruiter I see at a lot of recruiting functions.
Neal is the consummate networker. He is personable, shows genuine interest in talking to you and always has something he is ready to discuss. He clearly buys into the networking rule that I have written about: Be Interested; Be Interesting.
I know from prior conversations that Neal is a long time participant in the Pan Mass Challenge, a great bike ride that raises millions of dollars each year for cancer research. When I walked up to Neal, I immediately noticed a little bicycle on his lapel. Neal put it there because he is a big supporter of the event and he has done the ride for over 2 decades. But when I saw the pin, I realized that Neal was on to something.
One of the big challenges of going to networking functions is trying to find ways to connect with the people you meet. Asking questions that reveal areas of common interest and connection is a very effective technique (“Where do you live?”, “Where did you go to school?”, “Are you going anywhere on vacation?”, “Any plans this weekend?”, “Did you see the game last night?”, etc.) For more on this, read Connecting With Your Tribe.
But there are also ways that you can give the people you meet some visual cues about your personal interests. These cues can help get the conversation started. Wearing a pin or wrist band that speaks to a cause that concerns you is one way to accomplish this.
There are other creative ways to cue people about your interests and spark conversation. Men sometimes wear ties that highlight their interests. A creative business card can also stimulate questions.
If you spend a little time thinking about what you want to talk about before you attend networking functions, you’ll increase the chances that you will have meaningful conversations. If you find a way give some visual cues about things that are of interest to you, there is an even greater chance that you will come away from a networking function with names of people you want to follow up with.