Don't Be This Person

With 10 years experience in the events industry, I often find myself in the mentoring role which I really enjoy.  There's something about meeting a person with drive, passion and thirst for knowledge that not only makes me want to support them, but it also inspires me and gives me new ideas.  I spoke at a confence at NYU a few months ago for FindSpark (https://www.findspark.com/2014/05/14/careermoves/), and I noticed there are common mistakes people make all the time that can turn others away.  When meeting someone that could potentially be a resource for you whether by being a mentor, friend or next employer, you want to make sure you're prepared and you've put your best foot forward.  You don't want to turn off the person that could potentially open doors for you.  Don’t worry, I’ve also highlighted great strategies that others have had success with as well.  So let’s get to it!
 
The following are the most common mistakes people make so please avoid being this person at your next networking event or mixer:

 1. The Resume Dispenser
This person came to the event with a folder full of 50+ resumes to hand out.  If the goal was to find a job, you're in the wrong place.  Most of the time, speakers and hosts at conferences are volunteering their time to speak or consult on a subject they've been considered to be an expert in.  However, unless there’s a job fair associated with the conference, they did not attend the event ready to conduct interviews and accept applications.  Giving your resume to a speaker or influencer at a networking event is a sure way to have them misplace your information.  Here's the better question... Did they even mention they had an available position they wanted to consider you for? Yes, bring your resume.  However, don't hand it over unless you're asked. And most of the time, they want it in email which is better because it means it will live somewhere on their computer for an extended period of time.
 
2. Therapist Wanted
This person hasn't actually identified what it is they need from the person they're talking to.  They just stand there and speak non-stop about what they don't currently like about their career or how they feel they're destined for better things in the future.  They barely take a breath and certainly don't give the speaker a chance to offer an opinion.  The receiving party's only role is to stand there and be an emotional punching bag for this person.  If you need to vent, don't use this networking opportunity to do so.  A conversation means allowing the other person to chime in about the subject you're discussing.  Don't make the conversation so personal that the other person really can't offer any advice because the subject matter is unrelatable.  

3. The Conference Olympian
This person has the networking event down to a science.  For them, it's a game of numbers.  The more people they talk to, the better they feel their chances are of getting what they want.  The problem here is this person comes off like an opportunist.  Speakers often survey the room in between conversations to see what's happening.  It's great to make contacts at a mixer but a speaker will get turned off if you tell them how much you inspire them and would love to grab coffee and potentially develop a mentorship, only for them to turn around and hear you saying it to the other person a few feet away.  Going home with 50 business cards from a mixer means you're a schmoozer.  It doesn't mean you've taken your time to make true and geniune connections with people that will lead to future opportunities.
 
4. The Tape Recorder
I feel really bad for this one because all they want to do is impress you.  This person wants to show you they've done their research and they paid enough attention to your presentation to remember it... verbatim.  Being attentive and invested in someone's work is excellent.  Here's where it gets dangerous, "It's really great that your company has 10 years of event production, planning and innovation experience (direct quote from the website) and that you personally have developed a multi-faceted career from nightlife to hotels (direct from my LinkedIn)."  There was nothing geniune about that.  So you can read. Great! When you're paying someone a compliment, make sure it's heartfelt and not regurgitating a quote about their business they probably wrote themselves!
 
5. The Incessant Inquirer
Questions are great!  Being rude... not so much.  Don't monopolize the speakers time and please be considerate to the other people who also want to ask questions.  The polite thing to do is ask two questions (really just two, the follow up question counts!) then you say, "I'm really interested in further exploring that but I don't want to monopolize the conversation so if you don't mind, I would love your card so I can contact you and arrange a quick coffee break when you're available."  Don’t leave immediately after saying that.  Allow someone else to ask question before politely excusing yourself.  Who knows… it might be a question you wanted to ask too!

Now enough speaking in the negative and telling you what NOT to do.  Here's a list of great things to try:
·         DO your research.  Know who will be speaking at the conference beforehand and do your homework.  Make a plan before the conference and decide which speakers you want to chat with.  Develop a strategy to get information from those you may not get the chance to meet.
·         DO listen.  Give people the chance to answer your question.  Give others a chance to ask their own questions... you might learn something.
·         DO follow up.  A speaker meets a few dozen or more people within the span of 2 hours or less.  Tell them something memorable about you and mention it in the follow up.
·         DO take notes but try doing it after the conversation.  You don't want the speaker to think you're distracted or you're not interested in what they're saying.
·         DO ask dynamic questions.  This is a tricky one.  Ask questions that are really going to give you insight on the subject matter.  Try to stay away from personal questions, "Are you married? How do you juggle work and family?" Unless the speaker offers information, don't mention a piece of gossip or personal information you might have found when doing your homework.

Well folks, I certainly wouldn't consider myself the expert networker but I've had quite a bit of experience on both ends, as the information giver and the information seeker.  I can tell you that by following 50% of the advice above puts you well on your way to successfully making worthwhile connections at your next mixer.
 
et Voilà!