It was the part that I hate the most about networking. When you walk into the room , not knowing anyone, and can tell by the people around you that you’re going to have to make the first move if you’re going to meet anyone. In spite of all appearances to the contrary, I am not an extrovert. I am a complete introvert. That doesn’t mean I can’t be chatty, personable and sociable. It just means that those aren’t the most comfortable modes for me to operate in.
This particular night I was attending a Continuing Ed instructor workshop for the school where I teach elearning and WordPress classes. When you teach night classes, you never get to meet your fellow instructors unless they happen to be in the classroom next to you on the same night. So I grabbed my box lunch, found a place at a table, and did the one thing that almost always works. I turned to the person nearest to me, smiled and said “hello!”
It seems so funny to me that after all of the anxiety and avoidance and worrying I did about networking for so many years, the one thing that always seems to work is a simple smile and a hello. Does it always work? No, there have been times when my hello has been met with a brush off and even completely ignored. But for every one of those there are at many more people who smile and say “hello” back.
So what happened this night that prompted me to write about it in this blog post? Robert smiled back and reminded we that we’d met a few months ago at the first instructor workshop I had attended. I then said hello to Rob, Dave, Al (actually he said hello to me first) and we had a great group discussion about geeky things like elearning and flash and HTML 5. Several of us stayed an hour after the workshop just to chat and I now have some new friends/colleagues that I know I’ll learn a lot from. All because I was brave enough to smile and say “hello”.
So the next time you find yourself alone in a crowd, feeling nervous and wishing you were anywhere but there, think about me and smile. Then say hello to the person next to you and see what happens.
Do you have a tip for breaking the ice at networking events? Share with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
If you’re going to Training 2013, we’d love to meet you! Come hang with Kelly and Michele from Red Feather Networking at the Laguna Bar on Sunday night. We’ll be there from 6 PM to whenever. Stop over and say hello!
There are two frustrations I most often hear from people when they get home from a conference. 1) They didn’t know how to meet people and didn’t take advantage of networking while they were there. 2) They were inspired and motivated by the conference but once they got home real life took over and they never truly used the great things they learned.
There is no easy fix for these complaints, but I do have a suggestion that will help. Make good use of the conference back channel. The back channel is a flow of information happening real-time during the conference and is usually done using Twitter.
Now, if you are not a Twitter user, please practice your “withholding judgment” skills. There is no reason you can’t get a Twitter account to use during this conference and then afterward go back to your less connected life. Don’t discount the backchannel simply because of the platform it’s being transmitted by.
OK, now that you have a Twitter account, how do you find the backchannel? If the conference you’re attending really has it together, you’ll find a hashtag listed on the conference page. A hashtag starts with a # and is made up of cryptic letters and numbers that should have something to do with the conference. For example, The Training 2013 Conference that I attend has a hashtag of #trg13. You can do a twitter search on this hashtag to find all of the Tweets for the conference.
Ways you can use the backchannel:
1. Use the Backchannel to “Meet” People Before the Conference. Send some tweets about the sessions you’re going to attend. Retweet good tweets from other tweets. Tweet out to people who say things you like. You’ll get to know them online and when you meet them in person at the conference it will be like you’re already friends. Yes, you really can meet people on Twitter.
2. Use the Backchannel to monitor what is happening at the conference. People will tweet out quotes and learnings from session they’re in. They’ll tell you their plans for the evening. They’ll tell you which speakers are good and which to avoid. If it’s a large enough conference, the stream will go so fast that you won’t be able to keep up and you’ll have to flip back through it at night when things are quieter.
3. Use the backchannel as a motivator and reminder when you get home. The Tweets will be available on Twitter for several months and you use a free tool such Hootsuite to look at them or Row Feeder to download and keep them. There are even people in different industries who will curate backchannels for specific events, pulling out the best tweets and making them available in a report.
The backchannel is a fabulous tool for any conference or event. Don’t miss out on this great resource!
Have you ever been a part of a conference backchannel? Did you love it? Hate it? Have advice for using it? Post a comment below!
Many people believe that making a resolution is simply a way of setting yourself up for failure but it’s a tradition right? Don’t we all like to make a resolution… a new start to the New Year? Well, we do too. Regardless of if you call it a “resolution’ or you simple look at it as an evaluation of 2012 and a new plan to adjust in 2013 you owe it to yourself to make YOU a priority this year!
2012 delivered many surprises to me both personally and professionally. On a personal level, my oldest daughter got engaged, my youngest daughter discovered a passion that will lead to many years of working at what she loves, my husband left his job of almost 20 years to join an amazing team (this decision has us in a long distance marriage with him now living in Texas and me still living in Florida) and I my mother’s battle with dementia continues and after many agonizing months of research, interviews and site visits, she is now very comfortable settled in her new “home” and loving it. Professionally, I took a giant leap and have dedicated myself to Red Feather Networking full time which is my dream come true. Kelly and I have amazing things planned to “Unleash” in 2013. My personal goal for 2013 is to remain focused and to use my time wisely. By implementing some awesome time management skills I learned over the holiday break I will be able to assure that every task I do is working in the right direction of achieving my goals and the goals of RFN. This more organized way of working will also give me the flexibility I need to work wherever I am… Florida…Texas…airport…(thank goodness for laptops and smartphones). Thank you to several people in my amazing network who helped me discover this better way of “being”.
… from Kelly
This past year has run me ragged. Building a business, working full-time and being a good and involved wife and mother is a lot to put on anybody’s plate! This year is going to be a year of focus for me. One of my business resolutions is to spend more time strengthening my network. In 2012 I found several interest groups where I feel truly comfortable with people who share my ideals and have similar goals and roadblocks. So I dedicate the year 2013 to them. I plan to spend more time focused on the people I’ve met and talked with in 2012, strengthening those networking bonds and learning how I can help them to achieve their goals while I’m achieving mine. Not that I won’t meet new people and try new events. You just won’t see my face in quite so many new places this year. Other resolutions include losing weight (that’s been on the list for a few years now!), spending more time with my son, and speaking at least 3 large venues.
Thank you for the immense support that you have shown us in 2012. We appreciate the love and look forward to bringing you what promises to be your best networking year ever in 2013!!!
Celebrate safely and thanks for reading~
Kelly & Michele
Q : “Every conference I have ever attended I see people wearing everything from business suits to blue jeans. Is there a rule of etiquette on what to wear?”
You are absolutely correct and there is no hard and fast rule that I can share. Ultimately, you need to keep in mind that if you are attending a conference it is most likely work sponsored. This means that you will want to represent your company in a positive light. However, be sure to consider the long days, the cold session rooms and comfort. My personal method is this: Conferences 1-3 days long = professional dress every day. Conferences 1-6 days = a gradual dress code that starts with professional, business casual mid-way and ends with casual on the last day. This is not something that I planned, I just found it to be my pattern and it may not be for everyone. Of course for any after-hours networking event you will need to consider the event, the venue and who you will potentially be rubbing shoulders with. If you want a visual, I suggest checking out our Pinterest boards where Kelly and I post outfit suggestions for both men and women.
The dress code for a conference can really be anything from business suits to jeans. Every conference I go to has a different dress code. You’ve got two options: you can pack for every conceivable option, or you can simply ask. Ask the organizers, Tweet your question out to the conference hashtag, or find someone who has gone before and ask them. If all else fails, go for business casual and combination outfits you can dress up or down with accessories.
Thanks for reading~
Q: Last week I was at a networking event and I had the misfortune of striking up a conversation with the WRONG person. She was not only loud (which drew attention to us) but the stuff that was coming out of her mouth made me want to crawl under a rock. I was horrified. How do I get out of this situation should it happen again in the future?
I really like this question because it is much easier than you would think. I have been in this situation more times than I care to count and the key for me is to just remember that while the person is not someone you care to engage with they are still a person and they have feelings. So don’t be sketchy about it. A simple “Well, it’s been a pleasure however I really need to x,y,z. Enjoy the rest of your evening.” This accompanied with a genuine smile or handshake will take care of the issue 99% of the time. You are out of the convo and they still feel good about themselves. You mentioned that this person was pretty obnoxious so be sure to excuse yourself as quickly as possible. The longer you hang out the more it appears to others that you are ok with this type of behavior. The quicker you escape the more apparent it becomes that you just got trapped by the worst possible conversationalist.
This situation takes some tact and finesse because while you don’t want this person’s behavior to reflect on you, you also don’t want to offend them or cause a problem. Best case scenario here is for you to use an exit line that she can’t argue with or decide to come along. For example, if you say “Excuse me I’m going to refill my glass” she could decide to head over to the bar with you. . My advice is keep is short and sweet. Just say “It was nice meeting you.” Or “Nice catching up with you.” Add a quick touch of the arm or a good bye handshake and walk away. Do it quickly so there is no chance for conversation about where you’re going. If she asks where you’re going, just say “I’ve just got something I need to take care of.” as you’re walking away. I truly hope that this situation doesn’t happen very often. If you find that it does, you may want to evaluate the type of events you are attending. It could be that you are simply choosing events that aren’t a match for your networking goals.
The weekly Networking Know-How post is YOUR place to get YOUR questions answered. We hope you enjoy and find them helpful. We love hearing from you so please continue to tweet, email, or Facebook any comments or questions.
Thanks for reading~