Kathleen Powell, Assistant Vice President, Student Affairs, Executive Director of Career Development, Cohen Career Center, William & Mary
President-Elect, National Association of Colleges and Employers
Did you know that 90 percent of all people are afraid to walk in to a room full of people they don’t know? It’s true and that’s why networking, mingling, and “working a room” can be daunting! And you might be thinking, “Don’t I have enough connections?” Well networking is about connections and opportunities. So, how does one make the most of opportunities that are presented? Know before you go wins the day every time! With the NACE conference next week, I’m sharing tips that have worked for me. I call them the Three P’s to networking! Preparation, Practice, and Presentation!
Preparation. Before any event, I look at the attendee list, if available, to see who will be attending and what connection I’d like to make. For example, the NACE conference, go to myNace>events> NACE 16 Conference and on the actions carrot, select attendee list. Knowing before you go is a great strategy! Think about your purpose. Another suggestion made by a wise colleague, “You never know when you’re doing business.” What was meant by that is you could strike up a conversation in an elevator and later find out that individual would become a business affiliate or colleague. Go with a plan! Do you want to meet five new people, two new people? It is for you to decide!
Practice. How will I start a conversation, stop a conversation, present a business card? Make an introduction? In the age of technology with text speak and most communication coming through computers and handheld devices, I often get the question, “What should I say?” I smile and recommend, “Hello, my name is (you fill in the blank). It’s nice to meet you.” The person standing in front of you will politely respond and then you start your conversation. The real question I’m being asked is, “What do I say next?” It has to be your own words, but it could be something like, “Have you been to an event like this before?” or “What are you looking forward to with this event?” If the person has participated in such an event before, “What should I expect from this event?” or “Any advice for me?” All of these opening lines are open-ended questions where the person you are engaging with shares more than a yes/no answer. From there you may land on common ground and the rest is history, as they say!
Presentation: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. I’ll repeat that, you never get a second chance to make a first impression! Think about it. How do you want to present yourself? It’s more than just your words! Perhaps this goes without saying, but I’m going to say it. Look the part! Being polished and dressed appropriately for the function you are attending will make you and those around you comfortable. Take your business cards and carry then in your pocket. I keep my cards in my right pocket and those I’ve collected in my left pocket. The last thing I want to do is dig through my handbag searching for my business card holder. I also keep a pen handy as well. After meeting with someone, I try to find a private space to write a note on the back of their card to remind myself if I need to follow up with any specific deliverable. Smile and make eye contact. It’s hard to make an introduction if you’re not looking at the person you’d like to meet! If the event provides name tags, wear them high on the right or if the lanyard tags are provided, make sure you “tie it up” so it hangs at the appropriate length!
Remember, if 90 percent of all people feel the same way about meeting new people, many of us are in this together! Be consider and appropriate, watch your time and be respectful, listen and remember to follow up. For those attending the NACE 16 Conference, I look forward to meeting you and for us to practice our networking skills together!