Live Networking includes networking in-person at trade shows, conferences, seminars and workshops. Jobs don’t appear out of thin air. You have to network!
3 Keys to Meaningful Connections:
#1: Your Marketing Message Must Be Conversational
When you’re at a networking event, the last thing you want to do is rattle off a long-winded Marketing Message (aka Elevator Pitch). There are a couple of reasons for this. For starters, it will turn off anyone who hears it. Secondly, it sounds disingenuous.
One of the first questions people ask at a Live Networking event is, “What do you do?” That question is perfect because it gives you an opportunity to deliver your Marketing Message. However, proceed with caution.
With all the energy and excitement in the room, you’ll be tempted to shoehorn your entire Marketing Message while answering that one question. Instead, state a simple three-second answer such as, “I specialize in Information Technology.” Or, “I help companies market themselves through sports.”
A 30-second answer sounds scripted. And forced. A three-second answer is more conversational. And genuine. Plus it gives the person asking the question an opportunity to follow-up with another question, allowing you to finish your Marketing Message in a more natural way.
The rest of your Marketing Message should support your initial answer, such as where you went to college, your major, your work experiences, etc. All of this supporting information should be communicated in a conversational manner.
#2: Your Planning Must Be Highly-Targeted
Going to generic “sports industry” networking events is OK, but there are much better events such as industry-specific events. For example, if you’re interested in sports media, you’d find better connections at a Sports Video Group (SVG) event than a generic event. I would also encourage you to join those professional associations that match your interests.
And as a member of SVG, or any trade group that has a direct link to your career, you’ll be privy to many more industry-specific events outside the organization. Target those ancillary events and put them on your calendar as well.
While your goal is to land a job, make sure your expectations at Live Networking events are reasonable. In other words, trying to land a job—at the event—is ridicules. It’s also obnoxious. Your primary objective with Live Networking is to establish some good contacts. The way to establish good contacts is by doing your homework.
This kind of homework starts with identifying who you want to meet and knowing which events they will be attending. If they’ll be speaking or presenting at the event, this gives you an excellent opportunity to engage them before or after the event, depending on the itinerary.
Those targeted contacts should be nurtured in such a way that those contacts become genuine connections. A connection is better than a contact. It’s a deeper, more meaningful relationship. It takes time, effort and a little finesse.
The best way to make initial contact with your targets at Live Networking events is to first introduce yourself (first and last name only, at this point) and ask a simple question such as, “How did you get your start in broadcasting?” Or, “How do you see broadcasting changing in the next five years?”
If Live Networking makes you feel uncomfortable, you’re not alone. Lots of people feel the same way, including senior sports executives. Asking open-ended questions like those above is a great way to take the pressure off. It’s puts the emphasis on the other person, which is fine because at this juncture, it should be about them. You need to be a sponge.
Eventually, the person you are targeting will ask the inevitable, “So, what do you do?” And from there you’re good to go. But if they don’t ask what you do, ask them a follow-up question along these lines: “I specialize in TV production. What advice do you have for someone looking to break into this part of the business?”
#3: Your Execution Must Include Follow-Through
During Live Networking events there are unwritten rules. Don’t ask for a job. Don’t ask for a job interview. Don’t seem needy in the slightest way. And don’t hand out your resume. In addition to those, “Don’ts” there are also some “Do’s.”
Do have a business card that includes your contact information, social media information and your blog or personal Web address. Your business card should also include the same Marketing Message headline/tagline that’s on your LinkedIn profile. Place it right under your name like a title.
Do follow-up with every single contact you make via email, including other aspiring sports executives like yourself. A simple, “It was great to meet you” is fine. I would also recommend including a link to your blog/website and an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. And if it makes sense, follow them on Twitter.
And if you’ve asked them for “Career Advice,” it’s in your best interest to mail them (not email) a ‘Thank You’ card the very next day. That means you better be collecting business cards. But… (here’s another “Don’t”), don’t be over-aggressive! The networker that goes around the room collecting business cards like a maniac is repulsive. Only after you’ve had an engaging conversation do you ask for the person’s business card. Make sure to hand them your card at the same time.
With select individuals, it’s important to keep the conversation going. When I say select, I mean those that have the power to hire you. These folks are either Directors, Vice Presidents, Senior Vice Presidents and, of course, any C-Level executive. Figure out a way to keep your name in front of them. (Note: sending your resume is not one of them!)
If you don’t have a blog that’s relevant to your new contacts, start emailing important articles that are meaningful to their business. Or a special report, or a study that brings some sort of value to their department.
If you found this helpful, comment below or shoot us a tweet @sportsnetworker