Networking: How To Work A Room Like A Pro

By Liz Wendling, CWCC Member

Good networkers know how to “work a room!”  You know who they are, the people circulating easily and with grace around the room, meeting, greeting and talking to people in a way that looks and sounds sincere. It is obvious that they know how to start, develop and end lively and interesting conversations that build rapport.

Working a room effectively means having many short conversations with many people.  Short does not mean superficial.  It is completely possible to have thought-provoking, meaningful and stimulating short conversations with new contacts that create connections and make you memorable.

Not everyone likes this sort of networking environment. Many people who are put in this unfamiliar environment rank the negative fearful feelings that surface to be as bad as the fear of public speaking!

Yes, it is uncomfortable walking into a room full of people you don’t know – and it is even worse when you need to make a good impression.  But when you do know how to work a room you will feel better about yourself, make great social and business contacts and you will be able to make others feel more comfortable too.  Your confidence will attract them to you and make them want to know you better.

Working a room is not about buzzing around, passing out your cards like a black jack dealer and having fleeting half-conversations with other people.  Sure, you will meet a lot of people but it will be highly unlikely that you will make an impact.  If you do, it will not be a favorable one.

Try this tip the next time you are at an event. Make a conscious decision to approach people whom you might not normally speak to. Armed with your repertoire of conversation starters and questions, you should have no difficulty in making a good first impression and developing rapport. The more people you meet in a genuine way, the less fazed you will be by the networking process.  It is all part of the big networking plan of effectively working a room.

Another very important tip to remember when you are working a room is to not to be in sales mode.  Move gently from social to business conversation and avoid any sense of “selling.” People are not at networking event to buy or be sold, they are there to network.

Are you ready to work a room?  Are you willing to have interesting conversations with many new people? You must if you want to grow your business, close more sales and gain referrals.

I would like to end with a quote from Fred Couples that is very fitting for this subject. “When you’re prepared, you’re more confident.  When you have a strategy, you’re more comfortable.”

Liz Wendling, The Sales Coach for Women specializes in teaching women business owners, entrepreneurs and business leaders how to prosper by overcoming the fear and anxiety inherent in sales. Liz empowers women to be confident and strong in the sales process and shows them what it really takes to make sales fun, stress-free and profitable.

33 responses to “Networking: How To Work A Room Like A Pro

  1. This was a great article. Thank you Liz. Sometimes I do allow my anxiety to get in the way when networking, but if I am prepared (as with anything I guess) then I should be less anxious about it.

  2. Liz offers great insights and simple, clear tips that I can implement in my business today. Her messages are short for the busy business owner and so to the point. I love reading them!

  3. Very empowering! A How To Guide, for one of the most uncomfortable and yet most important parts of doing business. Loved It.

  4. Great points! Although, networking is used to increase the potential for sales, this first impression is really about relationships. Your comment about being confident but not in sales mode is important. Lay the foundation for a solid relationship and your networking will lead to more potential for profits. Never to be forgotten is the fact that you now know more about activities around you that may come in handy at any given point and time.

  5. Liz – good article! I would add to adopt the attitude of “who can I help, and how” when entering the room. It is also important to know what you are needing at the current time, both business and personal. Someone in the room may have a resource that could solve your current challenge. And I agree that you should not be in a sales mode, unless of course you want to be left alone!

  6. –Most often, going to networking events people have sales in mind. Why would they go otherwise? I propose changing one’s mindset. If you’re out networking, why do you need to network? While the answer is obvious, and you’re possibly on a tight budget these days, either to make sales goals or even to find a job, suspend that reality. As we know, most meaningful connections lead to meaningful outcomes – like a job or sales. But to make the connection meaningful, what do you need to do? Others there are also feeling awkward and don’t want to appear desperate. Go into these situations with a mindset of meeting as many interesting people as you can, and portraying yourself as an interesting person others respect after your short and meaningful moments. Keep up on current reading and issues so you can engage in a meaningful fashion.

    — What does “networking” mean? If you are interesting and are approachable in a way that people don’t feel you are selling them something, what is the desired outcome? One is “wow, XXX knows a lot about what’s happening in town. I bet they could help XX find what they need for this XX business.” That is the essence of networking. You are connecting people with what they need. But wait…isn’t that the essence of sales?

  7. Liz, great article and tips!
    I have learned over the years to only focus on meeting 2…..maybe 3 new people at each event.
    and then, my mother would be so proud, but I come home a hand write a short ‘nice to meet you’ note and get it in the mail immediatly so they get it in 2 days.
    People appreciate little things like that, I think.

  8. I agree with you Liz. There is no way to fake it or avoid networking with people if you expect to grow your business. The good news is that as you practice it gradually gets easier to talk to people.

  9. A really original perspective on networking–a part of business many avoid because we don’t understand how to engage properly. One thing that is really important is the easy, focused yet relaxed approach that Liz suggests.

  10. Flossie O'Leary

    Right on, Liz. It’s about being authentic, and that’s something we can all do regardless of how shy or outgoing we are.

  11. Nancy Hoagland

    Really informative article, Liz! And the timing is perfect since I am attending a networking group tomorrow. Look forward to putting these techniques to good use and hopefully seeing positive results.

  12. Excellent article Liz! You’re right, it’s NOT about the sale but finding out more about people and how to extend your network. You might very well make a connection that leads to something much bigger down the road.

  13. Greet tips Liz! As you know I mostly don’t like networking events because of the salesy superficial conversations that can get started and abruptly ended sometimes when they have decided you are not a prospect and they have a quota to meet. If everybody followed these rules of thumb the networking world would be a much better place to be in!

  14. I think the key here is that people aren’t at networking events to be sold to but rather to meet people. To learn about different businesses and cultivate relationships that may be beneficial in some capacity in the future. Thanks Liz for being so clear and concise.

  15. Great article, as always. Thanks Liz!

  16. Great article Liz! Networking 101 at it’s best.

  17. Liz, good article. I don’t like networking events and appreciate your recommendation to not “buzz around”. It’s really getting to know one person at a time. The question I sometimes ask myself is, “How much can I learn and appreciate about this person in a short amount of time.

  18. This article is so pertinent. Whenever I meet a new person at a networking event and they start to sell in the first sentence or two, the conversation cannot end fast enough. Meeting people who ask questions related to the current state of the industry hold my attention. Liz, your article is spot on.

  19. Great article, very useful tips for effective networking. I always appreciate when people show genuine interest in what I do and in return I enjoy learning about them. Thanks Liz.

  20. I used to hate networking, precisely because I thought it was supposed to be about selling. Understanding what it’s really all about totally changed my mindset – and mindset is everything! Being truly interested in learning about other people and their business (rather than trying to “be interesting”) takes all the fear out of the equation, and is a solid base for a potential new business relationship.
    Loved the quote too. Thanks Liz!

  21. Nicole Heckers

    Appreciate the article Liz. It is a great reminder that everyone has something to offer. When people can change their mindset from having the fear of “selling” or “taking”, to realizing they can give by lending an ear, lead or tip, networking becomes much more enjoyable and not an activity that so many people dread.

  22. Thanks for the article Liz. I just had a conversation today with my boss about how I need to start getting out once a month to a networking event. Now I’m armed with some good tips!

  23. Liz continues to be a spark in my life and always has advice and guidance to help me do my job better. Thank you Liz for reminding all of us about the ‘art of networking’.

  24. Excellent advice as always, Liz.

  25. Great article, Liz! Collaboration is the name of the game these days, and collaboration can only manifest in the space of authentic relationships. Thanks for sharing your insights!

  26. Great tips. People forget that networking is to begin a connection. The selling part comes later. That is so important and so many people teaching networking gloss over it. You are a rockstar!

  27. Thanks for the great reminders!

  28. Liz,
    You are right on. I go to so many events where people are there to pass out their biz cards…it seems to be all about them! It’s really about meeting people and building relationships! Great article!

  29. Wonderful article Liz- A great reminder that networking is about building relationships and that it can be done without anxiety!

  30. As always, Liz is on the mark with this article…networking is NOT selling! I also recommend Liz’s coaching….It was a great investment for us!
    Christina Sevilla
    LearningRx Denver

  31. Those are very good tips. I’ve watched political candidates on campaigns I’ve worked on do exactly this with ease and grace. I like your focus on receiving the other persons information – not just selling yourself but building relationship in a short period of time.

  32. Great article Liz. I agree that, especially in Denver, people want to have a genuine chat rather than a rushed sales pitch. Just like any activity that you want to be good at, I also suggest practicing before getting to the “game”. I saw your presentation on perfecting your 30-second pitch and it was great! Your tips here and a great opener/pitch should definitely lead to better networking.

  33. Great article Liz, I loved the point you made about approaching someone you might not normally approach. It’s great to step out of your comfort zone here and there!

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