As a corporate event magician, I’m often booked to perform at networking events.
I walk around the room, introduce myself to people, perform some magic and then move on to the next group.
At a recent event, I had a videographer following me around as I worked. He commented afterwards “The magic’s brilliant, but it’s also amazing how you introduce yourself to each group and quickly become their best friend!”
Clearly, it’s because of my good looks and sparkling personality.
But seriously, here are a few networking tips and tricks to get the most out of your next business event:
1) Plan ahead
Before an event, I find out as much as I can about the format. What’s the venue like, how many people are attending, what kind of people? Is anyone important attending who needs special attention?
If you know plenty about the event in advance, you’ll be more confident when you arrive.
Think about what you want to get out of the event. Make sure you have everything you need – plenty of business cards, promotional material, etc. Is there anybody in particular you want to talk to? Perhaps set a goal for the number of new people you’ll try to meet.
2) Dress the part
I’m often told “You don’t look like a magician!” (Maybe I should wear a cape?)
Generally I try dress for the event. If it’s black tie, I wear a tux. If it’s smart, I wear a suit. I want to look like I belong there.
You should do the same. Most industry events have a similar “uniform”, but if you’re not sure what the dress code is, ask the organiser.
3) Get to know the venue.
I always arrive early for events. Partly so I have time to hide my rabbits in my sleeves, but also so I can check the layout of the venue. Where is the bar and the food tables? Are there going to be waiters bringing around drinks and canapés? Where are people likely to congregate?
Arriving before the start time is usually not advisable for events you’re attending, but you can take a moment when you arrive to take everything in before you start networking.
4) Have an opening line
90% of the time I say the same thing when I approach a new group. (“Can I interrupt for a minute? I’m sorry – that’s exactly what I just did, isn’t it?”) I do that because it gets a small laugh and I don’t have to think about what to say each time.
What you say doesn’t need to be complicated. Remember, everyone else is there to network too. “Hi, can I join you?” would work perfectly well at most events. The key thing is to plan something in advance, so you have one less thing to think about and can focus on effective networking.
5) Make eye contact and smile
This may seem obvious, but if you’re introverted or nervous it may not come naturally. Make an effort to look each person in the eye briefly and smile.
Not only will people like you more, but research shows they’ll even find you more attractive!
Don’t overdo it though – there’s no need to grin and stare.
6). Ask people’s names
When I join a group, I ask everyone’s name and try to remember them all.
Remembering people’s names is really powerful – it shows people that you are interested in them, and they’ll like you more as a result. If you need some help with this, I wrote a previous article with tips on how to remember people’s names. Briefly:
- Pay close attention when the person tells you their name
- Repeat the name back to make sure you’ve heard it properly
- Show interest in the name – if it’s unusual, ask how it’s spelt or where it’s from
- If you know somebody else with the same name, imagine introducing them to the person you’ve just met
- Use word association: Think of something the name reminds you of and make a mental picture linking the thing to the person (“Bill” might make you think of a duck’s bill or a dollar bill for instance)
- Use the name once or twice in conversation to reinforce the memory.
7) Avoid people who are eating
If people are munching on food, I tend to leave them until later on. It’s hard to introduce yourself when you’ve got a mouthful of canapés and you’re holding a plate and a drink (Sticky fingers also make a terrible mess of my playing cards…)
Look for people who’ve finished eating before you approach. If there’s a bar, it’s often a great place to strike up conversation while you’re waiting for a drink.
8) Know when to leave
When I’m booked as a magician for business events, I try to meet every attendee and let them experience some magic. That said, some groups are always more engaged and interested than others, so I may spend a little more time with them. Conversely, others will be more keen to talk business, so with these groups I might do one quick trick and leave.
The same goes for when you’re networking. If a conversation’s going well, stick around for a bit. If it’s clearly going nowhere, don’t be afraid to make an excuse and move on. A simple “I promised to introduce myself to somebody before I go, it was lovely to meet you.” will do the trick.
9) Practice makes perfect
I’ve approached thousands of people as a close-up magician. To me, it seems natural to approach people at events, because I’ve done it so many times.
If networking’s important for your job, go to as many events as you can, and try to approach and meet new people at each one. If meeting new people makes you nervous, find a MeetUp group in your area for a topic you’re interested in and sign up. Confidence comes from competence.
I hope some of the tips are helpful to you. If you’re organising a networking event and want to help attendees to meet each other, hiring a close-up magician is a great way to do that. Not only will people have a great time and remember your event, it’s a brilliant ice-breaker for conversations too! Drop me a line to find out how I can add some networking magic to your next event..