Look at Me!!
I’ve been writing on demand for years. I was a teacher. I have a background in theater. Writer’s block and stage fright are distant enemies I’ve since made friends with. Hand me a keyboard, a pencil, a microphone — even a headset or a telephone — I can find my way to an intelligent, dynamic conversation, . . . but put me in a roomful of networking professionals, and I’m not exactly in my element.
What skill I have at live networking is not a natural talent, it’s something I’ve earned.
You could say I am an ex-kamikaze networker. I found too many ways to kill my credibility in the past. Since then, I’ve seen even more — some so amazing they should be on YouTube today. I’m going to share the 9 credibility-killers that I find to be guaranteed.
9 Sure-Fire Ways to Kill Credibility (BANG!) at a Live Networking Event
If you are out to kill your credibility, here are nine great ways to do it.
- Come as you are. Whatever the event, wherever the location, show up dressed in your signature duds. Of course, the iridescent tank top will stand out in a room of tuxedos, but if they judge you by that why would you work with them? Simply assume when you don’t draw the rock star crowd you might expect that the room is standing in awe.
- Bring someone who has no reason or desire to be at the event. When you introduce your guest, encourage him or her to talk first. After all, the people you meet have been networking chat all night. Their gratitude (ahem) for your forethought in providing the irrelevant conversation will show.
- Let everyone know how you feel. If you’re shy, as I am, put the SELF in self-conscious. Tell everyone how nervous you are. If you’re merely uncomfortable, share that too. You’ll understand when folks have “needs” of their own . . . to be elsewhere.
- Know what you came to get. Networking events are about meeting people who can do things for you. Come with plan of how you can take advantage of everyone of them and make it clear that’s why you’re there. The folks you meet will be grateful for your honesty. It will save them time of finding out how selfish you are.
- Talk the talk liberally — buzzwords show you belong. No one really wants to talk business. Stick with the lingo. That way, from the start, everyone you meet will be able to see that deep down inside you can be shallow as shallow as you assume they are.
- Stick to your agenda. When someone offers you the floor to tell what you do, hit your talking points like a politician. Make sure that you get every point across that you test your listener on them all. The impression that will leave is guaranteed to be a “killer.”
- Keep an eye on the room. Whether you’re shaking hands to say hello or involved in a conversation, you’re too important to let one person monopolize your attention for too long. Each event is limited in time and scope. Keep an eye out for those other someones you absolutely must meet. If necessary, interrupt what you’re doing if you spot someone across the room.
- Act like you know people and things that you don’t. Then try to piggyback on every person’s network you might. Drop the names of famous people you might have met, but didn’t. Spout information about your industry that you don’t really know enough to talk about. No one will be listening to notice your bluff. No worries. No conversation you have will last more than five minutes or so.
- Do be sure to take advantage of the free hospitality. The wine and cheese are there for you. It would be wasteful not to do your part. Besides, a little more alcohol could make the night easier and your stories more entertaining — especially the ones that involve people in the network who are worth gossiping about. Great story tellers of that sort always have a long life.
Or you might show your respect and dress appropriately. It’s one way to show that you understand that different situations call for different responses.
Or you might trust yourself (and the group) and show the confidence of attending on your own. Your motivation to meet possible colleagues will be higher and their interest in you will be stronger if they understand that you don’t need a “date.”
Or you might shift your focus from how you feel to the people in the room. Some idea, cause, or working relationship binds the people in the room together. How might you use that to ask an intriguing question that will get other folks to talk?
Or you might know what you came to offer. Networking is far more effective when we have something to offer. How often has it been said that it’s better to give than receive?
Or you might assume that people have given up their time precisely to meet and talk business. Folks who network tend to be curious learners who invest their own time. They are likely to know more about the business they are in than most folks in their field.
Or you might try listening at least as much as you speak. Networking is about conversation and the exchange of ideas.
Or you might realize that one solid connection is worth more than 50 acquaintances any day. By listening well on an initial meeting, you’re much more likely that a potential client will return the interest and think of you as someone with whom he or she might want to work.
Or you might show that what you know and who knows what you know is more important. sooner or later, people always find out when they have been oversold.
Or you might start working on a reputation for never passing on stories and for always being cordially enthusiastic and in control. People wonder, if you pass on a story about someone, what story you will be telling about them.
If you’re an overachieve who wants to tackle all nine credibility killers in one fell swoop — just make everything at the event about YOU.
However, if your goal is to enjoy and prosper at future live networking events, you might find that things get easier if take the “Or” options and make everything about the other people in the room. Any day is brighter (and every career is stronger) when you don’t kill your credibility the night before.
Have you ever crashed and burned at a networking event . . . or am I the only ex-kamikaze networker I know?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz!!