A catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they're not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities. How many of your social media contacts are catfish? It has happened to Manti Te'o, it can happen to you. In a world where we sit at a computer screen to meet other professionals online and where autocorrect renders "face-to-face" as "Facebook", it is easy to forget the best way to make an in-person connection.
Studies find a significant relationship between face-to-face networking and accelerated growth in career success. Business leaders agree that in-person communication is more effective, powerful, and conducive to success (In-Person Contact Still Important for Business).
Many successful Walsh College alums would agree. John Latella, MSF '99, January's Applauding Alum, stated, "a Walsh education will get you to the door; it won't open it for you."
The relationships you build are on the other side of that door.
Before the event
Let your social network know you will be networking at an event, "I will be at the WCAA Evening Networking event with Mark Hackel, let me know if you will also be there." You may be able to connect in person with someone in your contact list you are hoping to do business with or have yet to meet.
You had me at 'hello'
In a roomful of strangers ready to network, it almost feels like the first day of school. You do not know who to sit next to or how to start a conversation.
The best opening lines are simple, such as, "hello, what do you do?" Then listen intently to the reply. Listening can be an excellent way to get to know a person. Yes, it can be that simple.
Other great opening lines: "What brought you here? What do you like about participating with this organization? Tell me about yourself."
How do you answer the question, "What do you do?" The typical response is a profession or job title. For example, "I am an accountant." The problem with this answer is it doesn't tell the person who you are, limits the follow-up questions, and could end the conversation in an awkward silence. On the other side, a sales pitch or elevator pitch can come off contrived.
Keep your response fun, light, and informal, "My name is Duc Abrahamson, and I get to make friends for a living. I work for Walsh College in Alumni and Student Relations."
The idea is to get the conversation started.
Ask questions; don't interrogate
Avoid memorizing a list of questions to ask without really listening to the answers. Listening and genuine curiosity form the best questions, "That sounds like fun. How did you get involved with the WCAA Casino Night event?" Use open-ended questions to keep the conversation moving and maintain rapport.
I just met you, and this is crazy; here's my number, call me maybe
It is not a race to meet everyone in the room. Take your time to make a few real connections.
Remember to follow up. If you really connected, ask for the best way to stay in touch. It's networking, not dating. Don't wait two weeks before calling. Get in touch within 48 hours of the event to show you are interested and available, and reference something you discussed so that your contact remembers you. Networking is about creating a lasting relationship, not adding another business card to your index or profile to your LinkedIn contacts.
Please share networking tips that have worked for you or your best/worst opening line below.
Good Luck. I will see you at the next networking event!
The Walsh College Alumni Association offers many great opportunities to network with alumni, students, and business professionals. Visit walshcollege.edu/alumninews to find out more.