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It’s Okay To Hate Networking, But It’s Not Okay To Suck At It

Written By:
Matt Hubbard

Do you hate networking? It often means you have other skills. Even we can’t help you if you don’t acquire any partial contacts in the first place. And, unavoidably, that means networking. So how do you get past your hatred for schmoozing and bring home some valuable emails and phone numbers?

I’m not a gifted networker either. However, as with sports, the best players often make lousy coaches because they can’t translate their gifts into useful teaching points. The best coaches and analysts, rather, are often those who rode the bench and studied their peers. I’ve had the privilege of watching some rockstars, so, for those of you who–like me–secretly don’t love networking, here are some tips to improve and have more fun:

1) Have a buddy.

One-man wolf packs are for the chosen few. Grab a friend or colleague and work the room together. If you can’t think of something to say, your buddy might be able to interject. Also, being in a group may increase your perceived status. You’ll seem like the guy or gal who can help others make contacts. Just don’t make your group too big because then you run the risk of looking like an impenetrable, defensive clique.

2) Identify the other person’s motivation.

All event attendees have an overt purpose (recruiting, selling, etc.), but their true motivation might not be business. If you can identify that their boss forced them to go, or that they just wanted free food, or whatever else they’re really thinking about, you can shift the conversation to subjects that make them feel at ease. Find some common ground and then transition to business.

3) Have a prop or conversation piece.

A few weeks back, I watched some FullContact colleagues walk around a corporate fundraiser wearing blazers, bright red FullContact t-shirts, and these wingbandits. Their gear gave every conversation a natural starting point, such as “Where did you guys get those wings?” A prop may be as simple as an unusual watch, a creative phone case, or a college-themed tie. These items make you memorable and help the other person make conversation instead of reading your title on your nametag and drawing a blank.

4) Offer up your business card early in the conversation.

Hardly anyone refuses a card, especially if they’re in sales or recruiting. If you offer yours early, the other person is likely to reciprocate–even if they don’t want to–in order to keep from seeming rude. Plus, business cards contain pieces of information like professional title, company’s motto, etc. that are useful conversation pieces. For example, “I see your company is located in Denver? How do you like it there?” (Answer: we love it.)

5) Have talking points for every event.

Politicians, talk show hosts, and anybody who speaks for a living use them. In the car on the way, practice explaining (1) what your company does, (2) why it is valuable, (3) what you specifically do for your company, and (4) your professional background. Keep your talking points concise and have effective transitions which then allow you to ask questions about the other person, so you can identify their motivations.

6) Focus on the other person.

Love him or hate him, Bill Clinton is renowned for making everyone he meets feel like they’re the only person in the room. Even if the person you’re talking to is a complete zero, make them feel important, exchange business cards, and move on. Don’t look over their shoulder, check your watch or smartphone, or use closed-off body language. That zero may be the next Internet tycoon. Which brings me to…

7) Know when to get a business card and disengage.

How many times at a bar have you thought to yourself, “Man, I might have gotten that person’s number if I just shut up and made a timely exit instead of making that edgy joke or ordering another beer?” If you aren’t a natural, score some points and get off the firing line. Focus on quality over quantity, and leave the person intrigued and wanting a little more.

8) Have confidence.

If you do nothing else right, smile, introduce yourself clearly, and give firm handshake. In every interaction, there is a limit to what can go wrong when you authoritatively nail the takeoff. Others will often mirror your behavior and it will increase the level of rapport between you. For the science nerds out there, there’s also a wealth of scientific evidence that smiling improve your mood and social performance.

Then, once you get your partial contacts, come to us. Developers can sign up for a free API key to add contact info to their apps, and consumers can sign up for our Address Book beta for us to work our magic with your contact lists. 

For developers and companies, our API pricing plans start at just $99 per month.

Happy networking.

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