Question: How do you network offline that sets you apart from other people in a crowded room?
Question by: Sebastian Q.
Dress for Your Brand
"As a teen, I wrote a book about success in the real world; when in the media or at events, I wore a suit and tie with boardshorts and sandals to show a "work hard, play hard" approach to life. I was bombarded every time. It was never easier to strike up conversations and people never forgot it. Be careful though, because you don't want to be viewed as unprofessional or only seeking attention."
Two Minutes of Bragging Rights
"Whenever I find myself in a circle of people networking at an event, I find myself using a tactic that my friend Mari (of Foiled Cupcakes in Chicago) used on me. Two minutes of bragging rights. Everyone goes around in a circle and says who they are, what they do, why they're here. Then everyone gets two minutes to talk about their greatest accomplishment in business, new product, big dreams, etc."
"My dad once told me that 100 percent of people at a conference are as nervous to talk to you as you are to them. If you make the first move, they'll be relieved. Go into crowded room situations with your head high, shoulders back, smile on and guard down. Make it your mission to help others feel more comfortable by initiating with ease. Still nervous? Fake it 'til you make it."
"I'm a natural interviewer in the sense that I'm genuinely curious about a person. I like to ask questions and learn more about their story. In short, I create conversations. This is a great way to break the ice with somebody new and make them instantly feel comfortable, because we all enjoy talking about ourselves."
Pay Attention and Stop Looking Around
"Ever been talking to someone and catch him looking all around the room as you answer a question he just asked you? Networking is not about working a room, it is about investing in relationships with people you would like to learn from and about -- so act like it! Make eye contact, and stay focused on the conversation you are participating in."
Try Giving Instead of Soliciting
"Everyone in a networking setting is there to essentially pursue opportunities, job openings and other self-interested goals. There's nothing wrong with that, but the way you can really stand out in the crowd is to focus on giving to others, helping others, recommending a connection or contact info to someone, etc. Shift from "me" mode into "them" mode and watch how you'll stand out."
Be Absolutely Shameless
"There is no one that you can't network with, if you're willing to try. There's all sorts of etiquette on how to behave yourself at networking events, including suggestions that you shouldn't approach a big wig without an introduction. But as long as you're behaving appropriately to the situation, don't be afraid to throw those "rules" to the wind. Go up and meet everyone you can."
Research Participants and Speakers Beforehand
"Before walking into a crowded room, I like to know who might be there. Because there's a finite amount of time at any event to network, I never want to waste it by being clueless on who's in the room. Conferences publish agenda brochures and many event organizers put guest and speaker lists online. Spontaneity is great, but researching some people who you'll want to connect with helps too."
Network Like Santa Claus
"Everybody likes presents, so give people what they want. While networking, have something in mind that you would like to give away. It could be an ebook, a coupon or even a link to an article. After you've gotten to know someone a little bit, say something like, "I have a report I think you would enjoy reading. Can I email it to you?" Be generous with your compliments too. Ho, ho, ho."
Be a Connector
"I'm not a terribly deliberate networker; I'm very social and I like knowing who people are as well as what they're passionate about. I've found that knowing lots of people helps you put the right people together, and that's a great reason to meet and know even more people tomorrow. There's no selfish motivation behind that (which I think matters) and yet it's still brought me personal value."
Pay Attention to the Fringe
"When you're in a new networking situation, and particularly when you're in a group where you're a "regular," look for people on the fringe of the room who look a bit lost and lonely. An individual hesitantly looking around or two people seeming like they ran out of things to say to one another are great opportunities to introduce yourself. Talk to them for a bit and then introduce them to others."
Stop Sulking and Smile!
"It's amazing how many people at a social networking events look like they want to go home. Look like you want to be there and are having fun. People aren't going to run over to the person standing in the corner, checking their cell phone every 20 seconds."
Have Incredible Stories
"Being able to tell a good (true) story is the biggest key when you're at a networking event. Not in a bragging sense, but in a matter-of-fact way. If you've done something cool and it's led to success in your business, share that! That's what will make you memorable and get new contacts interested in learning more."
Give Everything You Have
"I look at every networking situation simply as another opportunity to make friends. It takes the pressure off and gets me focused on being interested, accommodating and helpful. Really listen to what they say. Take note of their life situations. Then when you get home think of things you could offer that would uniquely help them. Email blog posts, contacts or ideas. Simply give."
Be Someone People Want to Introduce
"One thing that has really worked well for me is finding out who the influential people are before hand, getting to know them and providing them value first. Then, at networking groups those influential people do the hard part for you and feel compelled to introduce you to people you should know. It brings credibility and an instant bond with people that you couldn't have gotten without the introduction."
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.