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Get off the bench and become a networking MVP

By : Stephanie Huntsinger

May 08, 2014 06:13 PM

Basketball—a big deal in the US this time of year—may or may not be your thing. But whatever sport you like to play, you know there’s nothing like that face-to-face contact and feeling of accomplishment when connecting with the ball. (Or winning. We all like winning.)

 

The same applies to networking.

 

With a goal in mind, a game plan and a pocket full of business cards, you can perform like a pro at your next networking event. Here are six tips to help you, well, score:

 

1. Get in some pre-game networking. See if you can find out who will be there and stalk them find out what they do, specialize in or focus on. Look up the presenters. Keep some of these fun facts in mind to spark conversations—and ignite connections with industry influencers. You might even meet a key prospect who can help you break into a target company, says Inc.

 

2. Have a game plan. Once you know who’s going to be there, decide who you’d like to meet in advance, whether a specific person or someone who works in a particular function. Focus on ways to gain new skills and get info from the experts. And as ever, keep an eye out for potential customers.

 

3. Don’t fall back on your smartphone. We know, it’s hard to talk to people you don’t know. A significant subset of social media users are uncomfortable making new social connections online and view online socializing as less “real” than face-to-face interactions, according to a new study by researchers at Cornell University and the University of North Carolina. But staring at your smartphone is the last thing you want to find yourself doing at a networking event, so put it away (unless you’re doing #5).

 

4. Be a team player. When you meet great people, make an assist (basketball jargon for “help out”) and introduce them to others. Don't worry about what's in it for you. Helping others can even remove some of your own self-consciousness, advises Fast Company. Later, they may return the favor. Before you go, know who you want to talk to—and who could be a potential customer.

 

5. Go social online, too. Live tweeting from the conference is a great way to amplify your presence outside the event walls. Many conferences broadcast live tweets on large screens throughout the show. And don’t forget to update your avatar with your photo—everyone wants to put a face (or at least an image) to the name.

 

6. Set up a re-match. Meet someone interesting? Send him or her an email or request to connect on LinkedIn. Do it within 48 hours, says one Entrepreneur blogger.

 

 

Tell your new contact how much you enjoyed talking and make a plan for future discussions.

 

Oh, and one last thing. Just as you wouldn’t step onto the court without your lucky pair of shoes, don't forget your business cards.

 

Have a networking story to share? Let’s hear it! Share your comments below.