HOW DO WE NETWORK AT A PRIVATE CONFERENCE
A private conference is a place where all/most of the people know each already either because they all belong to one company or one region or one association or club or industry. In short, it is a place where everybody is networking. And if you are a new entrant, you tend to trespass.
Here’s a question for those who are shy and intimidated — There are a group of 4-5 people who are interacting with each other and they know each other very well. How would you ensure that you are included in the conversation? If they allow this inclusion, you might become part of the clique as well.
As a child, you may have moved neighbourhoods, maybe in the same town or elsewhere. It is possible your dad got a new job or that your mom wanted to move to an upmarket neighbourhood or to a neighbourhood in a better school district. And you came from a “not so posh neighbourhood”.
If I can guess right, you MUST HAVE dreaded the first couple of days in the new neighbourhood. You would attempt to walk out in the neighbourhood and get to know kids. They would ask you where you previously lived and you would not want to answer, maybe because you feared that you would not measure up and they would look down upon you. In time you would have had to conquer those fears and which you did.
Similarly in a conference, where you know only yourself, you would need to address your fears. Like I always like to say, “You’ve got to TRY. Stick your neck out and ask for help. If the person chooses not to respond, you are as good as you were. Else you are definitely better off.” Since you are a start-up guy or a guy who is looking to network and rest are all plugged in. Now, you come across five people engrossed in a conversation about something that you probably know something about, here is an easy way to get in.
- Identify who is the person most likely to be amiable to a new person in the group
- Once you have identified that AMIABLE person (he could go on to be your best friend) all you need to do is try to get follow the conversation without assuming yourself to be too smart and intelligent. You do not want that supercilious tone creeping in… Since that attitude is a sure way to kill a blossoming friendship.
- Now, seek and entry point where people are musing over the last statement made by one the group. At this time, with all humility, go ahead and add something or say something that will cause an epiphany in all of the people standing there and they all say, “let’s include this guy because he is adding value to what we are discussing.”
Another Example is: You are talking to a bunch of parents and one of the parent is ranting that his son not paying attention at school. His son doesn’t seem to understand what the teacher teaches despite his understanding things very well when he/she (the parents) speak to him direct.
Therefore he ends up bumming around and his score grades are falling. The group were concerned about the environment in the school. Some suggested that the parent introduce their child to a counsellor to help him make friends, teach him to get more involved in school activities or help him develop a positive approach to school work and school environment. Others suggested meeting his school instructors and enquire about bullies and/or get some coaching in a certain subject.
Apparently, the problem is with the kid’s attitude or the school environment or child’s inability to cope with the socially competitive environment in school.
This is exactly the perfect entry point to introduce yourself to the group and share your experience. Let them know something that expands their knowledge and therefore the epiphany…….., ‘you were having the same problem when you were a child and unknown to your parents, your quality of eyesight had deteriorated and your myopia had increased and you could not see beyond a foot and therefore when your parents spoke to you, you were able to understand everything but could not see what was written on the black board or the white board in class. Add to that, my father had perfect eye-sight until 60 and he was upset with me about my bad reading habits causing my eyesight to deteriorate. Therefore, more important to jumping to discussions, the first thing is to speak to all stakeholders starting with the most important, his son. A completely different explanation may rear it head up which might require a completely different solution.
The moment you say that the parent may agree and say, “I have not done that and maybe that’s a good idea.Maybe, I need to start by speaking with my son.”
This is how you can gain trust in a small group. Now, graciously introduce yourself, exchange a card so that they get your details right and now when you are friends with everybody! Net net, there are ways and means to get in.
MAKE YOUR WAY IN
You first find the “minimum common ground” to agree with somebody and then keep building on that “common minimum” such that they begin to see you as one of them. Being positively engaged with their existence is the best way to get into any group is to be liked. Facebook has shown us the way – It gives us a high when people like us or comment (positive) upon anything to do with us. Just follow that philosophy. NO per se is such a negative word it just pisses everybody off. Even if you have to say something contrary which is an epiphany, you should rather start with the positive, persuade some cohorts in the group to see different and then move to a contrarian position rather than starting off with a NO.
The game to get into a close knit group is first to agree and then to put your point of view across as such that it looks you agree 80% but humbly choose another way of execution. Then, try and come up with an open ended question of finding a more efficient solution. In the process of finding a solution, guide them towards the contrarian view. It is better to have friends but if you would still like to enjoy ownership of the epiphany….. You may humbly reiterate what you started out with and how different the solution looks. Note that you have actually hoisted yourself in a position of power and that’s the way to get into any closely knit group.
So at a conference, you feel free to use it. It could start off with conversations on wine, it could start off with conversations on cheese, on a industry, on food or the land it’s from, whether its Indian food, its Persian food, maybe you know something more, it could be Russian, it could be the kind of meats etc. Ease yourself in through the use of soft knowledge and then and move into more professional topics but you need that to break in.
Facebook has also shown us that being engaged with people and asking questions also tends to draw people. It could be another topic and you could just be a person interested in hearing more about a topic, but once you’ve managed to ease yourself in. Being genuine is essential and it is important to highlight that in looking out for your new friends in terms of what their interests are.
I make a mailing group which I label “SPECIAL INTEREST — XYZ”. If I find something that might be of interest to others, I also mail it that person and the person remains engaged.
Remembering important dates is another way to keep new friends engaged. Facebook makes it easy to find out details. BUT it is a better idea to call them by phone and wish them in addition to wishing them on Facebook alone. While the public like on their Facebook Wall gives them a HIGH, the “intimate wish” makes them understand your proximity to their inner circle.