Up close and personal: 5 networking hacks

Up close and personal: 5 networking hacks
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With DevOps Dreamin’ last week and a flurry of events at the end of the month – TrailblazerDX #TDX22, Northeast Dreamin’ #NED22 and Texas Dreamin’ #TXD22 – it is clear that in-person events are coming back. 

BTW We’re sponsoring TrailblazerDX, on stage with Salesforce DevOps center and the sponsor of the AfterParty with Weezer. We’re also Platinum sponsons NorthEast Dreamin’. So come and find us.

Live events means real conversations with real people in real life. But, probably your networking skills are little rusty and that is not surprising as we’ve all spent the the last 2 years glued to Zoom. Striking up a conversation with a total stranger can be difficult and awkward. You summon up the courage to start a conversation and it doesn’t flow.

Lots. Of. Pregnant. Pauses.

Or you walk into a room and everyone is having a conversation, and it seems like it’s just you on your own. How do you break in? Below are 5 practical networking tips to make it easier and help conversations flow better.

Tip #1: Have low expectations.

You are not looking for a life partner, just a few connections that will lead to more connections. Treat every interaction as a “conversation of possibilities.” Go with an open mind, not a targeted sales pitch.

Tip #2: Follow the 3-feet rule.

If you are three feet from someone, get started. Practice. Think of networking as a muscle that gets better with renewed use. There is no shortage of opportunities: standing in lines (you’ll be in plenty of these at Dreamforce), sitting in sessions, at meal times, on the bus to the hotel, at the coffee stations or bar. Be open, make eye contact, smile.

Tip #3: Ask open questions.

Open questions start conversations and can’t be answered with a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ They begin with whowhy, what, where, how, or when. Prepare a few ahead of time. A few examples:

· “What is your favorite session so far?”

· “How did you decide which sessions to go to?”

· “Which parties have you registered for?”

· “What is your role?”

· “Which city are you from?”

· “How did you find a hotel with space?”

Choose your words carefully, as it is easy to ask closed questions: “Is this your first Dreamforce?” — “Yes” <end>. A better question is, “How many Dreamin’ events have you been to?”

Tip #4: Pick groups with an odd number of people talking.

At networking events with everyone standing around, it is easier to break into a group where there are an odd number of people. If there is an even number, then everyone is talking to someone else. An odd number means that there is someone who could break off and talk to you. Join the edge of the group but don’t stop the conversation, introduce yourself in a few short words — make an impression.

Tip #5: Find something that you can offer to send them.

Find a reason to start the connection. Email an interesting blog link, a restaurant recommendation, a book summary — but not your sales deck. And do what you said you would because, so few people do. This one simple act will make you stand out. Take a pen so you can write down on their business card what you said you will do.

Finally.

And finally, stop looking at your phone. It is tempting, but it is hiding, and closes down the opportunities for people to engage you. If you are looking at your phone, you might as well be back in your hotel room.

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