Meeting new people and making friends can be a scary thing for a lot of people. As an introvert, this is even more challenging. I go to a lot of conferences where I’m forced to meet new people – no matter how challenging it is for someone who’s an introvert.
I get all excited to go to a conference where I know there are tons of cool people but then actually striking up a conversation is usually the scariest part (just as scary as meeting that beautiful girl at the bar).
Luckily, I’ve found ways to make this process a lot easier and less nerve wracking. This wouldn’t be an Asian Efficiency post if these networking tactics weren’t insanely efficient and productive. So let me share the first one.
1. The 80/20 Rule of Networking
I’ve been to a lot of conferences and one thing I’ve learned is this: it only takes 1 or 2 people to make a conference worthwhile.
This is what I tell every Asian Efficiency team member when we go to conferences. I just takes one or two good people to make this whole trip worthwhile.
That’s the 80/20 approach to networking. Of course you’re going to meet tons of people, but only one or two will make a big impact on you. Just knowing this will save you a lot of time and energy at conferences.
Once you recognize these “20% people”, spend as much time as you can with them since your time at events is limited. It’ll also make the follow up much easier (more on that later).
To maximize your chances of finding those people, you can prepare in advance by compiling a list of people you’d like to meet. Which brings me to the next point.
2. Be a Stalker Before the Conference Starts
Well, sort of. Not in the creepy sense, but in the tactical online profiling sense. One thing I’ve realized is that half the networking battle is done before you go to the conference.
If I know someone is going to an event where I’ll be too, I’ll have a basic research process:
- Follow this person on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and any platform we share.
- Study the body of work of this person (can be cursory), e.g., read blog posts, read book, watch YouTube videos, etc.
- Ask friends and acquaintances if they know this person and can share some information about them.
I like to start this process as soon as possible. Especially with the social media stalking… errr by which I mean profiling… you want to organically get an idea of who this person is. This will lead to better and more interesting conversations when you do meet this person. Which leads me to the next tactic.
3. Know One Topic That Person is Passionate About But Never Gets to Talk About
Every expert and “(in)famous” person is sick and tired talking about the same thing over and over again. This is magnified at conferences because they will get the same questions all the time. You want to stand out by talking about a topic they are passionate about but rarely talk about at conferences.
For example, when people meet me at conferences they always ask me for productivity tips and apps. After 40 similar conversations, I’m pretty sick of answering that one question. But if someone starts talking to me about soccer or countries I want to visit, I’ll actively engage in conversation and listen.
Based on your online profiling, you should know at least one obscure topic per person. If you see someone posting a lot of pictures on Instagram about yoga, talk about yoga. If they rant about the education system on Twitter, talk about that. Just don’t talk about their main area of expertise or what they are known for – that can come later.
4. Engage Before Meeting
The money trick is to try to engage in conversation with the person before you meet in real life. This will making meeting much easier and soften any bad first impression you might make (like being nervous).
Things I usually like to do:
- Email the person with a sincere compliment about their body of work. Bonus: end your email with “No reply needed”. It takes pressure of them to respond and nobody does this so you’ll immediately standout.
- Try to engage in a conversation on Twitter.
- Leave insightful comments behind on their blog posts, Facebook threads and Instagram photos.
If you want to play it safe, err on the side of being useful and resourceful to them. Jokes and funny comments can help you standout, but you have to know their sense of humor and if you don’t it can backfire. Just something to be aware of.
When you do this enough times over a period of time, this person will start to remember your name. If the opportunity comes, then mention how you look forward meeting them at the event you both will be attending.
In an ideal situation, both of you are looking forward meeting each other at the conference. If that isn’t the case, try to get at least on this person’s radar so he or she will say “Yeah I remember vaguely our conversation” when you two meet.
5. A Simple Ice Breaker Is All You Need
At this point, you should have enough information about all the people you want to meet. Like a FBI agent, you know where this person lives, what they like to eat, what they do for a living and their favorite brand of underwear.
Okay, maybe not the last part.
Now all you need is a way to start the conversation. This is actually the easy part if you’ve done all your research. My ice breaker is simply this:
Me: Are you x?
X: Yes I am
Me: Hi, I’m Thanh. I’m so glad we met because I’m a big fan of your work.
And that’s it.
It’s really that simple. Especially if you’ve engaged beforehand, it’ll be even easier.
If you haven’t, give them a sincere compliment about their body of work and that will usually get the conversation going. Since you’re armed with extra knowledge from your online stalking, it’ll be easy to keep the conversation going.
6. Write It Down
After a day of meeting people, it’s important to write down what you’ve talked about with specific people. We’ve mentioned plenty of times how important it is to get things out of your head. We even have a whole article and video series about it.
Don’t try to remember what you two talked about – write it down. I usually do this at the end of the day when I’m back at the hotel. I’ll write down all my thoughts, without judging, and keep going until I have nothing left.
This will make the follow up email a lot easier which brings me to the next point.
7. Schedule Your Followup Emails
One thing people usually forget to do is following up! If you did everything right but you don’t follow up, that’s like cooking a steak and then not adding any seasoning on top of it.
I usually like to send emails as a follow up. A call might be too personal and everyone has different preferences on how they want to be contacted, but email is a pretty safe bet. Just keep it low pressure when you do reach out.
In the email, what I usually do is mention how great it was meeting in person, maybe bring up an inside joke we had and then close with how I look forward staying in touch.
So there you have it – seven networking tactics that will help you meet more people. Before you go to any live event or conference, follow this simple process and use a couple of these tactics. It’ll make networking a lot easier.
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