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Networking 101 (The Human Kind), Part 2

Fourteen tips for effective in-person networking.

So, you’ve chosen a networking event to go to and you’ve prepared as much as you can with Networking 101 (The Human Kind), Part 1. Congratulations! This is the first step in putting yourself out there. It can be nerve-wracking, but meeting people in the smart home technology industry and having real conversations is definitely worth getting out of your comfort zone.

Just because you’ve prepared for the event doesn’t guarantee it’ll be a success. When live and in real-time, there are some things you’ll have to do to grow your industry network.

CEDIA Tech Summit – Floor
The exhibit floor at the CEDIA Tech Summit.

Effective In-Person Networking

It’s time to have a great show! Follow these tips to ensure you’ll get the most out of your time networking in person.

  • Practice your elevator pitch before you arrive. Say your pitch out loud to yourself and time it to see how long it is. It might feel awkward, but it’s better to feel that way alone than to fumble in front of a new professional connection because you didn’t practice. The clearer you can be in your 30 seconds, the more likely you are to have a good conversation because you’ve already captured attention.
  • Be prepared to be uncomfortable for a few minutes until you find your footing. Even people who go to events all the time get nervous. It’s natural — we’re not born knowing how to do this. Hype yourself up with affirmations or self-talk and take a deep breath. It won’t be awkward for long.
  • If you’re nervous, take someone with you. It’s never bad to have a friendly face to turn to when you’re anxious. If you choose to take a colleague, it’s likely they’ll get the benefits of networking, too, and be a good “wingman” because they know you.
  • Practice starting conversations with people you know. There will probably be integrators, trade suppliers, distributors, and/or manufacturers you know at the event. Talk to them first! It’s easier than chatting with people you don’t know.
  • Remind yourself that the people you want to talk to may be nervous, too. Try finding common ground or a common interest to break the ice. Compliments and questions go a long way toward starting a pleasant conversation.
  • Don’t hover around others or a group. If you want to talk to them, take a deep breath and go for it. If you need a few minutes, walk around until you can get the courage to begin the conversation.
  • Listen, then respond. This is a great time to practice active listening. When there’s a short lull, try summarizing what you heard to make sure you’re understanding what they’ve been saying — it will help you and assure them you’ve been listening.
  • Don’t look around the room to find where you want/need to go next while talking to someone. This gives the feeling you aren’t invested in the connection, which is a networking faux pas. If you’re feeling the pressure to move to the next meeting or conversation, kindly end the conversation by saying something like, “It’s been great talking to you! I’d love to hear how it’s going when the project moves forward, please keep in touch.”
  • Be clear and concise. It’s easy to ramble when you’re nervous, but do your best to stay on track. Don’t be afraid to take a breath between thoughts if that helps. If you’re really worried, start with a simple answer to a question and wait for the other person to respond to see where it’s going.
  • Use open-ended questions during conversations. Consider asking questions like “What brought you to the event today?” or “Tell me about how you got into the smart home technology industry.” The idea is to get someone talking rather than answering with a simple yes or no.
  • Make a few notes between exchanges so you don’t forget who each person is and what they do. Any details that will help you remember are good to write down. Did the person have bright red hair? Did they have good eye contact and make you feel comfortable? Try to connect memorable details to a name right away so it becomes part of your impression of them.
  • Consider using social media to connect with others at the event. Research whether there are specific hashtags or event leaders you can tag to find others who are attending. Exhibiting businesses typically enjoy posting live at the show, which could be a great icebreaker if you don’t know them.
  • Follow up when you meet someone you want to build a relationship with. This might mean emailing them or connecting with them on LinkedIn. Make sure you re-introduce yourself and give a brief reminder of what you talked about so they can quickly remember you, too.
  • Stay professional throughout the event with your actions, words, and attire. Be conscious of who you’re talking to and where you are. Different types of connections require different communication — an integrator may have different expectations than a manufacturer, for instance, or a trade supplier. In terms of what you wear, make sure you’re tidy and put together. You want your first impression to be professional.

Come try out your new or improved skills at the regional CEDIA Tech Summits! They’re free to attend, and you’ll have the opportunity to network with decision-makers in the industry. Many of these participants don’t attend other similar free industry events. Tech Summits present rare opportunities to talk with industry insiders from large companies like Barco and Sony on a person-to-person basis.

For more details, visit