Work the Room: How to Be the Star at a Networking Event
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When it comes to networking, it’s not just about making a great first impression—it’s about making a lasting one. After all, networking is all about building relationships over time.
But at a networking event—where everyone you meet is sure to be meeting dozens of others, too—how do you make sure that you’re memorable, even after the night is over?
After 25 years of owning a company built on the fundamentals of networking, forming relationships, and understanding others’ needs, I’ve found that there are a few secrets to mastering these types of situations. Here are five key ways you can work the room, then make sure everyone remembers you when you leave it.
Be Your Own Publicist
First off, make sure you’re prepared with a 2‐3 sentence introduction. Beyond just giving a run-down of what you do, you should talk about something that makes you stand out or that might make someone interested to learn more.
Also make a list of exciting things you can share with others throughout the event—like interesting clients or projects you’re working on or the fantastic book you just read. You don’t want to throw all of them out rapid-fire to everyone you meet, but having a few interesting points prepped will give you some talking points as your conversations flow organically.
Play the Name Game
When you meet someone, say your full name loud and clear, and try to use word association. I have it easy—I point to my hair and say “Blond, like the hair”—but especially if you have a name that’s long or difficult to pronounce, try to come up with a couple of ways you can help others remember it.
Then, when someone gives you his or her name, repeat it back—it shows that you’re interested and it helps cement the name in your mind. When you move on to the next person, say the person’s name again as you leave the conversation. The more you say it, the more likely you are to remember it later.
My rule of thumb at a big event is not to stay with any person longer than three minutes. That’s more than enough time to introduce yourself, learn about the other person, and make an impression—but it’s just short enough that the conversation shouldn’t drag.
How do you do this gracefully? An easy approach is coming up with a pressing task you have to do that allows you to step away, even if that’s running to the door to greet a familiar face or refill your drink at the bar. It’s not rude if you don’t return (unless you told the person otherwise)—it’s just networking.
This sounds simple, but it can be easy to forget when you’re nervous. While you’re talking to someone, look into their eyes (not around the room), smile often, and laugh at their jokes. People love to get cues that what they’re saying is funny and interesting, and by genuinely showing interest, you’ll put them at ease.
Another great way to show your interest is to ask thoughtful follow-up questions. For example, if someone tells you he just got back from Mexico, don’t just say “that’s great!” or “lucky you!” Ask him where he stayed, what types of activities he did, or about his most memorable moment.
Turn Up the Charm
The thing that many people forget about networking events is that they don’t end that night.
Plan to sit down the next day and send a brief email to everyone you met. Let them know you enjoyed meeting them, follow up on anything you discussed at the event, and then, make it personal. Include an inside joke from the night before, share an article you think they might like, or, if you chatted about your hobbies, mention a new band or movie you think they’d like. This little extra effort can be just what it takes to start a worthwhile relationship.
Tell us! What are your best tips for being memorable at a networking event?