Personally, I love them. The idea that you can walk into a room and meet all sorts of different people is very exciting to me. How you approach it can make the difference between coming out with nothing or coming out with all sorts of opportunities. (Explore more about that here "Network Like a Human".)
Knowing what type of people you are bound to run into and having a plan to deal with them can be a huge factor in finding success at a networking event. Let me introduce you to a few ...
Jim Grabyerhand - (AKA Herb Tarlek from WKRP in Cincinnati) This guy is always going to be there (click here for a video that describes him in detail). He has one goal in mind ... to sell you something ... at the event ... right NOW! He will give you a death grip handshake and not let go until he is done his pitch and you have bought whatever he is selling (or finally get blunt and tell him to go pester someone else). He is usually the loudest in the room and can be seen stomping out at the end cursing networking events and how useless they are, only to be seen again next month using the same tactics. The best way to deal with Jim ... stay at least 5 feet away at all times, never let him make physical contact. As soon as he grabs you, the pitch will start.
Wally Wallflower - This is the guy hovering around the snack table attempting to look busy out of fear of approaching someone. Inside, he is terrified to initiate a conversation but knows the value of meeting new people when it comes to business. Turmoil rules his heart at a networking event. The best way to deal with Wally is to be his hero. Go up and say something to him ... say anything ... it doesn't matter because he will be completely relieved that he has someone to talk to and he can stop feeling weird about hovering over the snack table. You never know, he may have something very valuable to offer you. He could be a dream client. The only way to know is to talk to him. If you do, you are guaranteed that he will remember you in a positive light, which is half the battle at a networking event. WARNING: Wally Wallflower can very quickly turn into Cathy Clinger if you aren't careful.
Cathy Clinger - Once you talk to her, she won't let go. She may have valuable information and opportunities for you but ... she is scared of having to start up a new conversation and wants nothing more than to keep talking to you so that she can stay in her comfort zone. Fear is her main motivator so in order to move on to your next conversation without offending her you must alleviate that fear. The best tactic to deal with Cathy is to listen to her for a bit, make sure she is comfortable with you and then introduce her to someone else. That way, she doesn't need to fear initiating the next conversation, she remembers you in a positive light (which means future opportunities) and you get to move on to your next conversation and build more relationships.
Bessie Businesscard - Bessie is a human business card dispensing machine. She puts them everywhere! You will find her card on chairs, on tables, on the bathroom counter and of course forcefully thrust into your hand as she hurriedly introduces herself while her eyes chase the next target for a business card drive by. The best tactic to deal with her, take the card and move on. Hand the card to the next Jim Grabyerhand you come across, suggest he talk to her and then sit back and giggle.
Harry Helper - Harry is one of the guys you definitely want to meet. He understands that success comes from helping other people and he is there to do just that. He is genuinely interested in what you do and will want to explore ways that you can be of mutual benefit to each other. He will look you in the eye and be straight forward with you as you talk. He will tell you what he does but will not try to sell you anything on the spot. the best way to deal with Harry is show that you appreciate his style by asking him questions and having a genuine conversation with him. Exchange contact info with him and be sure to stay in touch. Harry Helpers usually end up being worth their weight in gold somewhere down the line.
Carry Connecter - Carry loves to introduce people. She has a service or product to offer and knows that the more she connects others, the more she will be connected. It works for her and can work for you to. She will listen to you explain what you do and immediately start thinking of people that you could help or that could be a help to you. She will then go on to tell you about them and most likely make a virtual introduction by e-mail later. The best way to deal with her is to let her do her thing. Follow up with the people she connects you with and keep in close contact with her. Send her business if you can. Opportunities are in the people around you and she can quickly multiply the people around you.
So there you have it. At a networking event most of the room will be made up of people that fit one of these descriptions (or possibly be a combination of a few). Identify them quickly and know how you are going to deal with them. Make the right connections, nurture the right relationships and experience how much you can benefit from a networking event.
What other characters have you met at networking events? Do you have any anecdotes about experiences with the characters above? Share them in the comments!
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