Networking a room? Here’s some terrible advice.

2 Mar

Fellow Copelander Andrea Merson and I were up at U Vic last night speaking to BComm students about how to work a room. They have a networking session coming up with members of the Victoria business community in advance of their annual Business Banquet on March 10th.

One of the students confessed he was reluctant to come to the talk last night because he had already attended a similar seminar and had learned the right approach:

He was told to memorize a 30-second elevator pitch and use that as an introduction.

I just about spat up my internals.

Worst advice ever.

Better advice would be to not talk about yourself at all, but ask questions about the person you’ve approached.

  • What brings them to the session? Have they been before? Has it been a good experience? Did they find these networking sessions easy?
  • Ask them about their job: What actually do they do? How long have they been there? How has their year been? Where else have they worked?
  • Ask them if their company ever hires interns or co-ops. What’s the process? Have they ever worked directly with one? What do they think makes a good co-op candidate?

Don’t launch The Great Me at them from the get-go and try to convince them how interesting you are. Instead, act interested. Let them come to their own conclusions.

Elevator pitch? That is Networking Suicide. Imagine trying to pull off that approach in a bar!

The business folks at a networking session are people first and foremost and the usual rules of conduct apply.



9 Responses to “Networking a room? Here’s some terrible advice.”

  1. Lynne DeCew March 2, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    Glad to see you providing an antidote to bad advice, Doug. While it’s a good idea for a student (or anyone who’s selling themselves or their services) to have a concise, interesting answer ready if someone asks “What makes you special?”, the main point of networking is to connect with people. That’s best done by being approachable, gracious and geunuinely interested – not by coming across as the Cham-wow guy.

  2. Chris March 2, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    ‘Nuff about you. What about me?

    I believe having the elevator speech in one’s back pocket ain’t a bad idea, especially when it comes to ensuring people know “why you matter.” There are those that would much rather listen, than do all the talking. And if you’ve got “nothing” to talk about, the conversation ends quickly.

  3. dougbrowncreative March 2, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    Fantastic point Lynne. You should know what sets you apart from other students…you just don’t want to lead with it. Like the Cham-wow guy!

  4. dougbrowncreative March 2, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    True enough Chris. But if all you’ve got to talk about is yourself, the relationship ends even more quickly. As with Lynne’s point, knowing what to say about yourself is important, so thanks for pointing that out. I would just never lead with it. Cheers!

  5. Dale Baglo March 2, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    As Fred Flintstone once said: “But I’m tired of talking about myself. Why don’t you girls talk about me for a while?”

    Dale Carnegie was right. If you want someone to remember you, be a good listener.

  6. margriet aasman March 2, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    There is one thing I can’t stand, and that is sharing something in conversation and having a listener break in and say “I know just what you mean!” and proceed to take over with their own story. That I take as a lesson in reverse: always try to listen, leave yourself out of the other person’s story and ask appropriate questions to keep the conversation going. The person talking will love you and seek out your company. Good for business!

  7. dougbrowncreative March 2, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    > Dale I love the easy access you have to the literary and philosophical giants. Fred and Dale were right!

    > Those conversation hijackers may monopolize things for awhile, but they don’t make a good impression. They are networking terrorists. Nobody likes a terrorist. Good advice Margaret, cheers!

  8. michelabyl March 2, 2011 at 6:10 pm #

    Don’t forget to thank them for coming to the event! You taught my class that at this event last year!

  9. Doug Brown March 2, 2011 at 6:23 pm #

    Excellent reminder Michela. You can be sure I stressed it.

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