Networking is one of those things that can require a lot of effort, and yet has the potential for a huge payoff. During the New England Museum Association Conference a few weeks ago, I used much of my time looking up attendees, setting up meet and greets and then following through. That meant introducing myself, telling my story, listening and sharing thoughts on the state of the industry.
I had to pull out a skill I hadn't used in awhile; a simple blueprint to maximize your impression and what you get out of the conversation: Ask It, Show It, Know It.
It may seem counterintuitive when you are trying to make a solid connection with a potential business partner, but your goal should not be to brag about your resume, but rather to ask questions and soak up as much information as you can. Ask about their work, their strengths, their challenges, their successes, what they do when they are not working, what do you have in common. A natural opening will come soon enough, and then you can tell your story. Really? Yes. Good question.
Learn as much as you can about the person you want to meet. Look online, talk to peers, read their bio in the program. You want to come to the conversation armed with relevant talking points and to demonstrate a competence that will get their attention. Remember, it’s networking so you don’t just want to make a good impression on them, but that they will remember you when talking to their colleagues.
"Hey, you know who would be perfect for this job? The woman I met at the conference!"
This is the time to telegraph your passion. Most people who network want to make an industry connection, collaborate, increase their knowledge, find a mentor or a protégé, or simple talk shop. Tell them why you love your job and what personal satisfaction you get out of it. Love your work, your projects, your goals…and let it show.
So, the next time you are at networking event, or a party, or a conference overwhelmed by how to make first contact with important people – just remember it’s as easy as Ask It, Show It, Know It.