I was on a conference call this week with two faculty members, one in the U.S. and one in Canada. I was asking what challenges the students in their classes were having and how Global Emerging Leaders (GEL) might support those needs. Surprisingly they both had the same problem at the top of their list:
“They do not know how to go to a reception and network, they sit around a table with their eyes on their cell phone ... I thought they were posting or texting other people. I was surprised to learn that they were texting each other in the room.”
So if you are one of those emerging leaders unsure what to do when you walk into the room, here are some practical tips to help make the next industry networking function a bit easier.
Remember not everyone in the room knows each other, even if it seems like they are able to flow and mingle easily.
The second most important thing to remember is that in this industry everyone is friendly to a new person and will welcome you into conversations; this is an industry that is based on relationships, and part of that is being open and friendly.
A good trick is to head to the bar and get a drink; it is easy to start small talk while waiting in line. A safe opening is to introduce yourself and ask the other person where they are from. Remember, people like to talk about themselves.
A safe secondary line of conversation is about the event—it might be, “Have you been a member of MPI for a long time?” or “What did you think about that speaker?” or “This venue is really amazing, have you been here before?” By asking a question, you are asking the person or group to give a response and this leads to a conversation.
Walking into a room where you do not know anyone and you feel you are less experienced can be intimidating, but remember they were all where you were once, and 99 times out of 100 the person you approach is going to welcome you in and make you feel comfortable.
JULIE ANN SCHMIDT, CMP, CMM, is the founder of the Global Emerging Leaders Community (GEL). GEL is a one-stop shop for all things in the industry geared towards emerging leaders. The organization is a portal that gives emerging leaders with zero to seven years in the industry help to embark on their career path.