Whether you produce events – or just attend a bunch of them – understanding the ins and outs of networking can be a huge asset to your career. I'm not a naturally networker myself – I often find it a chore to make small talk with people I'm meeting for the first time – and for that reason I really enjoyed my recent interview with Jessica Levin, which you can hear on Cvent's event and marketing podcast, Don't Forget Your Name Badge.
Jessica Levin is the President and Chief Connector at Seven Degrees Communications. She's also the author of Perfect Pairings: The Art of Connecting People, and she's made a career out of bringing people together for mutual benefit and by teaching others to do the same.
I asked Jessica how I could be a more effective networker, and what she told me was pretty reassuring. Here are three takeaways I got from our conversation.
Think quality over quantity
One thing I've always struggled with at networking events is the feeling of FOMO I get when I'm not making a concerted effort to meet as many people as possible. That is, after all, why I'm there. Right?
Not necessarily, says Jessica. "I've been to some events where somebody is trying to meet as many people as possible. And you know they don't really care; they really just want to collect business cards. So, they talk to you, and maybe they evaluated in the first 30 seconds whether they think you could be helpful to them or not, and they just dismiss you.”
Instead, Jessica recommends that you focus on meeting the right people. “You should actually be thinking about your goals. Is your goal to meet as many people as possible, or is your goal to actually make a sale and find somebody who is willing to buy from you?” And to help you meet those goals, you need to...
Do your homework
You can get more out of a networking event, advises Jessica, if you go in with an idea of who you want to connect with. "Use an app like the Cvent [CrowdCompass] to understand who the attendees are and then do some homework on them ahead of time. Look at their LinkedIn profile and their company website. If we’re using the events industry as an example, that means understanding what kind of events they plan and who your mutual connections are, so that when you meet them you have a little bit of insight.”
Don't just network – be a connector
"Connecting is an approach to networking," say Jessica. "Networking is the act of going out and meeting people and building relationships. But being a connector is what happened afterwards." She describes being a connector as a way to help others achieve their goals, "where you are the one facilitating connections and relationships and networking between other people."
By building a reputation as someone who can help others succeed, you enrich your professional (and personal) life. And as event professionals, bringing people together to their mutual benefit is what we do.
You can hear my full conversation with Jessica Levin on this week's episode Don't Forget Your Name Badge. And if you want to hear more great conversations about events and marketing, subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or Google Play.