When asked to use the word horticulture during a game of Can-You-Give-Me-A-Sentence, Dorothy Parker replied: “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.” Known for her caustic quick wit Dorothy Parker was a founding member of The Algonquin Round Table, the 20th Century’s most powerful and prolific literary network. It was a veritable nucleus of intellectual energy. At its core were founding members Vanity Fair writers Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and Robert Sherwood. It started as a casual lunch group meeting daily in the Algonquin Hotel’s Rose Room and grew to include a host of writers and critics including Edna Ferber, George S. Kauffman, Heyward Broun, Mark Connelly, and Donald Ogden Stewart among others. Society columnists coined the name The Algonquin Round Table and the group did what networks usually do: exchange gossip, ideas, trends, information on jobs and writing assignments from New York to Hollywood.
Round tables are traditionally about connections serving as educational and networking tools. It’s not necessary to join a roundtable to network effectively. The easiest way to tap into a professional network is by actively attending conferences and rubbing elbows with the industry professionals, movers and shakers.
Networking can establish relationships that open doors with information and education. Always sign up for a conference with a particular goal or purpose in mind. Consider it an opportunity to meet new people who can give you new leads opening up new possibilities. Think about what it is you plan to accomplish or take away–and above all–sharpen your networking skills.
In developing your networking strategy remember the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared. Do your homework by researching those who will be presenting at the conference. When the opportunity presents itself make your presence known. Armed with certain background information you will be surprised how the conversation will flow. Research the presenters and panelists who will be discussing the topics relating to your interest. Consider introducing yourself with an advance email to the particular presenters and practice your introduction.
Have an elevator speech ready encapsulating your background and goals in making your acquaintance. Get to the point quickly and try to be engaging by showing interest with eye contact. Have your business card updated with your email and contact particulars. The business card lays the groundwork for the follow up and a long term connection.
Don’t forget to mind your manners. After your gracious introduction know when to excuse yourself and walk away. Be considerate. Nothing is worse that standing waiting your turn to introduce and speak with a presenter only to have another greedy attendee monopolize the Q&A time. Be courteous and considerate of the time of the presenter and the other conference attendees. If you cannot get to the presenter try to speak with an event organizer, a team member or their publicist if one is present. They too can prove to be vital connections. Remember, it’s about building relationships.
Above all, ask questions and don’t push your products or run your mouth a mile a minute. Prepare a couple of questions in advance and be prepared to listen. Be honest in your approach and don’t be pretentious by name dropping or inflating your background.
You don’t have to be as charming and as witty as Dorothy Parker or belong to a roundtable, but do have some culture. Enjoy yourself meeting, greeting and making new connections. Moreover nurturing those new connections can help in building your business and your brand going forward.