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Participants in a Dec. 7 webinar on “Taking the Strange Out of Meeting Strangers” learned how to overcome the fear of entering a room full of people to develop valuable networking relationships.
“I am not sure why we are so fearful of strangers,” said webinar presenter Linda Hebert, president of Diversified Marketing and Communications in Pleasanton, Calif. “Perhaps it’s because we are taught not to talk to strangers."
Hebert assured participants that they can overcome their discomfort of mingling at social occasions when they come prepared to overcome their inhibitions.
Simple strategies — such as wearing a name tag on the right side instead of the left and perfecting the handshake -— can help make a good initial impression.
A reference to the latest movies, current events or industry news can provide an entrée into a casual conversation that leads to a business relationship.
Hebert also provided pointers on how to break into a group conversation and how to exit gracefully in order to move on to making another contact.
“You want to meet several people — not just one and not the whole room,” Hebert said.
She also suggested planning ahead to identify the best potential contacts at an event. By obtaining a guest list beforehand, networkers can do a little research to determine who they want to meet.
If a list of guests is not available, a post at the door provides a good vantage point for seeing who’s approaching and receiving an introduction from arriving attendees.
Networking events are not the appropriate place to make a sale or seal a deal, Hebert emphasized; that is best left for a follow-up meeting.
The immediate goal at the event should be to set the stage for further contact in the future.
Following up on an initial contact can be as simple as sending the person an interesting article that was a topic of discussion at the event. People who follow this tactic can establish themselves as a “resource for general knowledge,” she said, and a source of industry expertise.
Maintaining a high profile in the housing industry can also be enhanced by working with local associations and pursuing volunteer and mentoring opportunities.
Along with taking positive steps to improve the effectiveness of their efforts to establish business contacts, networkers should avoid bad habits, Hebert said.
Indiscriminately handing out business cards — or “dealing the deck” — is a poor substitute for building rapport by making the effort to get to know individuals better, she said.
Unprofessional marketing materials — such as an email address like "SpoiledBrat@email.net" — can also be detrimental and spoil the professional image the networker is hoping to cultivate.
Sponsored by the NAHB Professional Women in Building (PWB) Council, the webinar is available on the NAHB Webinar Rewinds page.
Hebert will be a panelist in an educational session at the 2012 NAHB International Builders' Show — “Marketing to the Female New Home Buyer” — which will be held on Friday, Feb.10, from 10:00-11:30 a.m.