How to network at seminars (without looking like an idiot).

by Kevin

in Face-to-Face Sales,Marketing,Public Speaking/Stand-Up Comedy

Hi,

My friend Max asked a good question and I got so involved in writing my reply, I decided to make a new post of it. It’s a follow up to the networking at seminars tips I gave out in the interview with David Raybould. I hope you find it useful.

Here’s Max’s question: When you mentioned the awkwardness the first time with Yanik, I can totally identify… But – how on earth did you manage to go from ’socially awkward writer’ to doing stand up comedy in front of crowds? And appearing on flashpoint?

Ahhh… good question, Max. Well, just to be clear… you’ve got the progression backwards. I went from socially awkward teen (all comics are socially awkward), to stand-up comic, to appearing on Flashpoint, to socially awkward writer.

I think what it comes down to in regards to feeling awkward, Max, is confidence.

When I went to those first marketing seminars I mentioned in the call — I felt like I didn’t quite belong yet. I assumed I hadn’t yet accomplished enough to earn my swagger.

What I learned (the hard way), was in reality, my insecurities were coming from the fact that I was too focused on an outcome from each encounter.

I felt like I had to impress people with what I’ve accomplished for them to take me seriously.

That’s backwards. And as I explained in the call, when you approach someone with genuine curiosity about them and what they do… they very naturally become interested in you and what you do.

That’s how healthy friendships (and partnerships) are formed, right? It starts with two people showing a sincere interest in one another.

So, hopefully, the story of my awkward encounter with Yanik Silver will help others avoid the trap.

The idea of “networking” is actually pretty inviting when you remove the pressure of “what’s in it for me” and instead think, “how can I help this person.”

I know that may sound kinda hokey, but it really works.

Here’s another good “networking” tip… this one I heard from Michael Masterson (incredibly cool cat, no matter what the cynics say) at ETR Bootcamp back in November… (which, by the way, I was invited to by my (now) good friend, MaryEllen Tribby, after meeting her briefly at another event just weeks before.)

(Not trying to name-drop here, just show that if an awkward goof like me can do this — anyone can.)

Michael and I were chatting when a guy approached him, looking perplexed. He said, “Michael, I’ve always heard that the best way to network is to walk up and say to people: ‘Hi, I’m Ed, what can I do for you?’ But I’ve been doing that all day,” Ed continued “and people just look at me with blank stares.”

Michael asked Ed what he was in a position to actually offer a guy like Clayton Makepeace (whom had given him the blankest of stares). Ed replied, “Well, nothing really, I think that’s why it’s weird.”

Obviously, Ed was using similar advice to the kind I just gave a minute ago a bit too rigidly. It’s important to enter a conversation with business leaders realistically.

If the person you approach is so much more advanced in their career that you couldn’t possibly offer help to them — then directly asking them “what can I do for you?” will seem silly and desperate. Especially if they’ve not even had a chance to get to know you yet.

Michael gave him some good advice on how to engage the person more genuinely. He said, “Instead of trying of trying offer them something when you’ve really got nothing… just ask them for advice.”

That’s a good tip because most people love to share their knowledge. It strokes their ego a bit, and makes them feel good if they can actually help you out.

Let’s face it… none of us got were we are today without the generous advice and guidance of people more experienced than us. Most of us remember that — and are happy to return the favor when given the chance.

So, the key to “networking” with anyone, anywhere, no matter how accomplished they are… is to just be genuine and curious.

Try it and see.

All the best,

Kevin

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