March 12, 2008

Effective Networking

I'm currently in Dallas at the Hospitality Operations & Technology (HOT) Conference and will be speaking tomorrow on Business Intelligence. Tonight we had the welcome reception and I knew no one...literally I had never met a single person in the room. I know they say more people are afraid of public speaking than being burned alive (or something crazy like that). I however have no problem standing in front of a bunch of people (friends or strangers) and talking about almost anything and could probably go on for hours (I can tend to be long winded at times). I think it is great fun. But being in a room full of people I don't know and starting up a conversation is roughly equivalent to being stabbed in eyes with red-hot forks. I have flash backs of being at the jr. high dance with that deathly fear of being rejected, but knowing I had to ask in order to dance (which is a whole other story for another post). Why is that?!I know it is part of being a consultant. You have to network. So here is a question to my small group of readers and smaller group of commentors.

"What is the best way to start an interesting conversation in professional a trade conference?"

Oh, and "So what do you do?" cannot be an answer. I'm looking for something more interesting and original.


gabriel ryan said...

i'm hoping to get my crash course in 'networking 101' or better yet 'stabbing my eyes with red hot pokers 101' this next week. i will be going to vegas to hang out with half of the bajillion wedding photographers that populate this world. my fear is being lost & alone in a crowded room. so sorry... but hopefully i will have the beginnings of an answer to your question when i come back next week.

gabriel ryan said...

actually though... i think i have a start. i am going to ask people 'why' rather than 'what' because i think people are a lot more excited about the reasons 'why' they do what they do.

Chrystal Sturm said...

How AWESOME that you used this pic from 16 Candles! How funny is it that one of the dorks is John Cusak? Ted, I think. Honey...this makes me love you even more.

I might go with a Cara opener like, "Hi, I'm Kevin Sturm. You might know me, I'm kinda a big deal.." and see where that gets you.

Love you. me

Chrystal Sturm said...

ON SECOND THOUGHT: keep people talking about themselves and pretend to be really, really interested by asking questions about what they are saying. Even if you know better/more/don't care at all. I promise. It works.

They'll remember you fondly b/c they'll think the two of you had a really great converstation! Then the next time you talk, and there will most likely be a second time, you will probably get to share a few things about yourself.

And carry around lots pictures of your family...people love that ;)

Chrystal Sturm said...

Cusak = Bryce
Hall = Ted
Other = Cliff

for anyone who cares...

Matt said...

Well, I definately wouldn't use the conversation that's going on in the photo...trying to collect panties at a Hotel Hospitality conference probably wouldn't demonstrate Business Intelligence. My industry only has one starter (for agents and consumers alike)..."So, how's the market where you live?" Makes for fascinating woe is me stories from folks who'd rather complain than work, and eventually leads to some great sharing of ideas from those who like challenges rather than complaints

Andy said...

chrystal, I hear that works with women too. though, I've never been good at that either.

Gabriel, at least you will be in vegas. good times.

how bout "I flew here all day, and boy are my arms tired." or "you must be tired, youve been running thru my thoughts all day"

how bout "how are you REALLY doing?"

or, "dont lie to me, is this the (best or worst depending on how its going) conference you have ever been to?

or 'youre hot, can I buy you a drink?"

Cat said...

What I've found is that 99% of the people in the room are in the same boat and are freaking out about how to start that conversation as well. With that in mind, I look for someone who is standing by themselves (usually near the food) and I approach them and make some small talk about the hotel, food, the ride from the airport, while straining to see their name tag. Once, I can read their name, I'll say, "Tom, I'm Cat. It's nice to meet you. Did you travel far to get here? Are you excited about the conference?" Usually, the person is ecstatic to be talking to anyone!

Chrystal Sturm said... "can I buy you a drink". Nice try, Andrew.

Kevin Sturm said...

Thanks everyone for your insight. I will keep all of these in mind for the next trade show.

Except of course "can I buy you a drink". (I love you Chrystal!) I'll leave that one to the single networkers.