I had the privilege of going to Search and Social Spring Summit 2010 (SSSS) this year. It was great meeting new people, finally meeting those I only knew via Twitter. It couldn’t have been any better. Before heading to my first ever search conference I asked someone for some advice. I mean I’ve been to conferences before, but never to one that I was so excited to go to. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself or break some “unspoken taboo”. I was told to smile, and stay away from the gossip. Staying away from gossip is no problem, but smiling? Now, I’m a nice guy but I’ve been told I don’t exactly wear my emotions on my face. So I tried to smile as much as possible. So to those I met at SSSS and I wasn’t smiling, sorry, hope this makes up for :-).
I’m pretty sure I did a good job networking, following the advice I was given. But while I was there I saw not only what I was told to stray from, but a few other behaviors I’d like to reflect on.
No, not the band that sang “One Headlight”. Now, being that SSSS was so social and personal there were very few. Essentially the name says it all. They sit back and just watch what is going on around them. They actually aren’t easy to spot if you are really engaging with others. Typically I’ve seen them sitting at tables (when available) pretending to be working or waiting for someone. I’ve even seen them hanging out just outside the buffet in order to give the appearance they are in line without being in line.
This really isn’t networking. This is more of hanging out at prom watching others have fun.
The stand-in simply walks up to an on-going conversation and just stands there as if being apart of the conversation. This is slightly awkward for all parties involved, but given the chance to introduce him/herself the stand in will simply say, “Oh I’m just listening in” The reason I place this person over the Wallflower is because he/she is at least attempting to engage. Even if it is standing there listening (possibly creeping others out by not participating), it is dipping a toe in the water. Once a stand-in gets enough courage he/she then begins to gain more knowledge and another step closer to getting the most out of a conference.
Not hard to find, these are the people that only talk to the keynote speakers, conference organizers, sponsors, etc. If a person has achieved great respect and success in search marketing, rest assured the snobs will only seeks these people out at a conference and no one else. I’ll be the first to admit it is cool to chat and hang out for a bit with someone that has great influence, but there are more people at the conference to interact with. Connections made away from the grand stage can have more longevity and importance in my opinion.
Of the ones on this list, this is the closest one to getting it right. The socialite bounces from table to table hobnobbing with everyone. While this may seem like a good idea, this technique lacks sincerity in my opinion. It’s great to meet a lot of different people at conferences, but if don’t walk away with some good solid connections you’ve accomplished nothing. The only time it would be acceptable to behave in this manner is if you already know everyone there. At that point, by all means socialize to your hearts content!
The Workin’ Girl (or Guy)
Better known as the self-promoter, this person is there for one reason only, to promote their own services and abilities. Not hard to spot, they usually run the conversations talking about themselves and what big plans they’ve got coming up. But before you think all self-promoters are bad, think again. Joe Hall put it bluntly, “When you work for yourself, you’ve got to become a prostitute”. You do have to promote yourself, but there is a correct way to go about it. Hoarding all of the attention and not attempting to connect with those you’re putting to sleep with your dribble is a mistake.
So with these five examples is there a particular behavior or method to use to network?! And the answer is, no. I honestly believe while each of these methods aren’t very good, bits and pieces of each combined make for a very successful networking blueprint. From the wallflower we learn to watch the room to see what’s going on. From the stand-in we learn once a group seems interesting to approach it and join the group. From the snob we learn there are more important people to network with at the conference other than the speakers. From the socialite we learn that we must engage whatever group we are in. From the workin’ girl (or guy) we learn that we must not talk about ourselves all the time, we’ve got to engage others as well in the conversation. These are just a few of the traits I found to be a good combination to help me with networking. What are some traits or some behaviors you’ve seen that have worked? To add to the list, what are some you’ve seen that have crashed and burned?