The art of networking: How to work a room to meet the right movers and shakers

Scan just about any meeting announcement, be it from an organization, a school or a proposed seminar, and you will find a portion of the event dedicated to “networking.”

To a certain extent we’re all measured by the company we keep. Hang out with losers and you will be perceived as a loser. Rub elbows with the best and brightest and people will immediately assume you are among the same ilk. The conundrum, however, is how to make those critical initial connections. It’s very easy to spot the naive and ineffective networkers. The moment they enter the room their eyes spastically zigzag from left to right and they seem to have the attention span of a gnat. Ostensibly, their goal is to find Mr. or Ms. Right, who can open doors for them.

Typically, these flitters accomplish zilch. They wear themselves out, and everyone they encounter becomes a blur by session’s end. They do themselves more bad than good by their transparent superficial modus operandi.

The much more effective way to make friends and influence those need-to-know others at gatherings is to arrive with a plan. First, gain a general understanding of the type, or better yet the names, of key people who will be attending the event and then focus on those you want to meet.

When you arrive certainly greet all of your existing acquaintances, but refrain from getting pigeonholed. Instead, use your time to your advantage by meeting those who can make a difference. The initial conversation with those whom you have predetermined as relevant should be short and to the point. By having done your homework, you’ll know a few significant facts about each person you’ve identified that will resonate with him or her.

Here is how to turn a cursory conversation into a potential meaningful business relationship. First, document what you learned about your new acquaintance by simply notating your intel in the notes section of your computerized contact list. An ancillary benefit is that at the next encounter, after a quick review of your notes, you will come across as one who cares with a steel-trap memory.

On the following day send a very brief email to your new acquaintance mentioning the initial meeting, what you discussed and your hope to see them again.

Wait about a week and then send another message, but include something of interest which you will have unearthed referencing the notes you recorded. This should be a less-than-widely circulated news article or bit of information that you think will be spot-on with your new contact. Typically, if you hit the mark he or she will send you back a short note of thanks. After this it’s time to cut the thread of the to-and-fro emails, pick up the phone and call with something that will peak their interest — not just “let’s do lunch.”

Effective networking means learning something about just who it is you want to know. Building enduring relationships is accomplished by positioning yourself as a subject-matter authority on a specific topic, as well as a go-to person.