Strategic connecting is one of the best things you can do for your personal brand – as long as you do it correctly. Below are nine tips that should help you make the most of business related functions and events.
- Carry a Pen
No matter how small your purse, always carry a pen. And make sure it's a ball point, not a felt tip.
When you have connected with someone, find a moment where you can excuse yourself to the bathroom and make some notes on their business cards. It helps to create your own form of code, something like: 2K (2 kids); SME; PC (phone call) etc.
- Learn to use voice recorder apps on your phone
While on your way home from a function, make good use of smartphone voice recorder apps and brain dump your experiences from the night. Go through each business card and make a note of your conversation with that person. Be honest and open.
- Stock up your purse with the essentials
Every businesswoman needs the following essentials in her purse/handbag while attending a business event/function:
Business cards (and enough of them)
Ball point pen (they write well on most cards)
A mobile phone that can be used as a camera
Lip gloss (for all the photos you will be in)
Breath mints (no-one likes to speak to someone with onion breath)
Protein bar/nuts (in case you are unable to eat the food you are given at a function)
Tissues (you never know when you need them)
Mirror (for quick checks of your teeth and face throughout the night)
- Know your place
You need to read the room. Understand who the big players are compared to the small. Find where you fit in and start there.
When making contact with a "high end" connection, get in and out quickly. Don't attempt a deep and meaningful conversation with them at a function, that can come later. Impress them with a short and sharp version of yourself and leave them wanting more.
If there is someone more senior than you, offer your assistance. If there is someone more junior than you, be an example of what to do.
- Ask the right questions
At a function you have a limited window of opportunity to build a bond with someone. When you meet someone new, simply introduce yourself and ask them what they do or better yet, how they know the organizer of the function or the classic "so what brings you here". That is the quickest way to connect on something mutual and works particuarly well with events based on a passion e.g. charity, sporting or political.
- Dress for the occasion
As the saying goes: "You can never be overdressed but you can be underdressed".
This is so true, as long as you're dressed for the occasion.
A cocktail function does not mean "show as much skin as possible", nor does a "black tie function" mean you can wear a mini skirt.
- Don't drink
People often don't like hearing this but not drinking at functions is pure genius. It's a guaranteed way to ensure you don't say anything that may offend or blurt out information that someone from the media could latch onto.
On the plus side, others may drink a little too much and as the saying goes "loose lips sink ships", just make sure it isn't yours.
- Understand the hierarchy of business card exchange
The rules on how and why you exchange and/or ask for a business card are very important.
If you are not asked for a card then do not offer one. The only situations you should reach in for your card would be if asked, or if you would like to offer free assistance to someone and they don't have their own card in order to make contact.
There is an exception: when you choose to offer your business card to someone below you in the hierarchy (business food chain), if you see potential.
- Being snubbed
It you haven't yet been snubbed at a function don't worry. It will happen ... one day.
How do you handle it? Initially you are in shock that someone could do this, and in a professional setting.
You then need to deal with it. Be polite but firm.
Feel free to excuse yourself from the situation and move on. Remember you do not have to continue "connecting" or being involved with people who act this way, regardless of who they are.
Just remember not to snub anyone yourself now you know what it's like.
Amanda Rose is Australia's only Strategic Connector building mutually beneficial relationships between people and businesses. She is also executive producer of The Business Woman TV.