Thursday, September 18, 2008

Work it Baby… 5 tips to work your networking

I was at a networking event last week for Anthill magazine’s top 30 entrepreneur’s under 30 and it reminded me of some of my favourite networking rules.

1. Practice makes polished
Be well prepared for the question “what do you do?” If you’re a bit of an introvert (like me) be a nerd and practice in front of the mirror or with a friend answering this question until you can get it out in 30 seconds or less.

Awesome on the night at this: Sarah Sammon, founder of supplying the most fabulous and colourful rose petal wedding accessories I’ve ever seen.

2. Work it
Before you answer “what do you do” have a bit of a think about what you might like someone to say once you’ve said your answer. Do you want them to say “cool” or do you want them to ask questions about it or do you want them to say “I want to use your service”?

Rocked it on the night: Seb Maslin, founder of 199QUERY (you can mobile text message ANY question you like to this number and they’ll answer it for only $2.50). After Seb told me what he did I instantly wanted to check it out for myself.

3. Card up
Have your business cards at the ready and consider:
• Not having your mobile number on your cards (so you can give it out to people specially and make them feel like a champ)
• Writing a small note on someone’s business card if they tell you a detail that could be important later on like kids names, birthdays, favourite drinks.
• Writing a small note on your own card when you give it to someone so that when they go home with their stack of cads they’ve got an even higher chance of remembering you from the bunch.

Failed miserably on the night:
Me! I left my cards in Tassie (don’t tell any real estate agents or they’ll kick me out of the club!) but I made sure I followed up all the business cards I received on the night with a quick email or handwritten card within a few days.

4. Homework first
Before I work… er walk into any networking situation I like to know, to the best of my ability, who’s going to be in that room. For this event my homework was sending a hand written card prior to the event to the people I knew were going to be there (not always possible) and reading up on their bios. “Mini-stalking” like this gives you something to chat about instantly and avoids those oh so soul shattering silent “I don’t know anyone” moments when you walk into a room, it also kinda makes people feel a little special which is always nice. If you can’t do your homework prior to the night, keep your ears peeled while you’re there for interesting tidbits.

My new BFF: Tobi Skovron of heard I liked shoes, remembered it, and used it as a talking point later in the night (his collection, as it were may even rival my own).

5. Be Different
Whatever you can do to stand out on the night or afterwards (in a professional way: not by Coyote Ugly style dancing on the bar) makes it more likely that your name will be remembered instead of you being “whatshername” I met at “that thing that time”.

Definitely different: David Stallard of was constantly amusing on the night, laugh out loud funny, but also followed up the next week via email with some interesting suggestions for me on domain names I might like to register (following on from a joke on the evening).

And one final tip for those of you perhaps looking to organise a networking event of your own. Try to give people something to talk about afterwards.

My hero on the night: James Tuckerman, founder of Anthill magazine who set up the night, chose the theme of a children’s birthday party for the evening, based on the fact that young entrepreneurs may give up part of their childhood to achieve at a young age. James certainly gave me some of my childhood back... think party hats, cheezles, fairy bread, beer (ok, not so childlike) and pass the parcel with costumes to boot. The event was fabulous, fun and completely memorable!

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