I've been working with United Kingdom Trade and Investment in Tallinn to prepare for a conference where they will show off talent and innovation born in Estonia.
The challenge? How to make it clear how exciting the talent and innovation really is, even beyond Skype.
Part of the workshop was on transforming presentations into conversations listeners want to continue after your presentation is done.
And part was devoted to informal networking.
The Estonians fancy themselves introverts, but this hasn't been my experience. The people I worked with simply have a strict sense of protocol and the habit of not putting themselves forward too forcefully.
It only took a little practice and an understanding of the benefits of breaking habits to get people into a very social mode.
Here are the networking tips we discussed:
1. Find out in advance, where possible, who you should meet before the event takes place or before a networking break. Begin to think about how to make the exchange of cards meaningful.
2. Make your goals lead your behavior and choice of what you say. The desired result? To continue the conversation outside the room in which you exchange cards.
3. Approach a qualified lead/total stranger with the intention of beginning a conversation you can continue later. Hold out your hand, look the person in the eye, and introduce yourself, saying you’re from Tallin, Estonia (if, indeed you are -- why? Because it's interesting). If the person you approach doesn’t give a name, ask for it.
4. Make it easy for those you meet to help you learn quickly what the possibilities of your relationships could be. Begin the conversation with a question, and when conversation lags, ask a question again.
5. Through questions what you add, make it easy for them to show you how you could be of use to them, how they could be of use to you. The key word is “how”. Do they know someone who might be a better fit? Do you, for them?
6. Remember to be genuinely CURIOUS -- with purpose. Make it easy for those you meet to show you the connections that are possible between ideas, vested interests and opportunities you share and how you can cooperate.
7. When possible, save exchange of cards for the end of the conversation. It gives you a way to end the conversation, and it doesn’t cause a lot of fumbling at the beginning when you meet. It allows you to look each other in the eye.
8. Once you get a card, write on the back what is meaningful about the connection and what you will follow up with.
9. Follow up that day by email, if possible. See if you can set up a phone call or a meeting to continue the conversation.
10. Be persistent – don’t push, but continue being curious about how you can help each other. Even when you get back to your home base. See how long you can make the conversation last. Sustainable curiosity is your most valuable resource.