Author, investor, and efficiency guru Tim Ferriss credits much of his current success to his attendance at South by Southwest (SXSW) in 2007.
The event is an annual series of festivals and conferences where everyone from startup founders to filmmakers convenes. It’s where Ferriss was able to promote his upcoming book, “The 4-Hour Workweek” by starting to build his professional network.
At last year’s SXSW, Ferriss delivered a presentation highlighting the most important lessons he learned about networking while promoting the book. A recording of that presentation is now available on Ferriss’s podcast, “The Tim Ferriss Show.”
In it, Ferriss outlines what not to do while trying to connect with people at conferences. Read on and see if you’ve been guilty of any of these all-too-common faux pas.
2. Acting like a jerk
Ferriss offers an example of prime jerkiness that should be avoided: He once saw a conference attendee ask someone if she could see the apps on his phone. When he showed her the phone, she promptly used it to text herself so she'd have his phone number.
'Don't do that,' Ferriss says.
The bottom line here is that networking is about taking and giving. In this case, the conference attendee obtained (stole?) someone's phone number, but presumably, he got nothing from her in return.
4. Barging into a discussion
If two people are deep in conversation, Ferriss says, it's rude to interrupt them. If it's three or more people, it's appropriate to approach them.
Ferris highlights a strategy he used at SXSW in 2007. First, he made sure to ask if he could join the discussion: 'Hey guys, do you mind if I join you just to eavesdrop? It's my first time here and I don't know anybody. I'll buy you guys a round of drinks.'
Chances are good they won't say 'no.'
Once you've joined the conversation, wait until someone says something you don't understand and ask them to clarify. That could spark a debate among the other group members and could eventually prompt them to ask who you are. That's when you can make your (brief) introduction.
Oddly enough, Jodi Glickman Brown writes in The Harvard Business Review that she used a similar strategy when trying to meet Ferriss at a conference. As soon as Ferriss noticed her in the crowd, she said: 'Hi Tim, I'm Jodi Glickman Brown with (communication consulting firm) Great on the Job; I didn't want to interrupt, but I'm fascinated to hear about what you do. Please, continue and I'll just listen in.'
You can chime in with your perspective after you've been listening patiently for a few minutes. That's what Glickman Brown did, and she was able to ask Ferriss a question and get his advice.
5. Cutting off your conversation partner
Maybe you're genuinely irritated by the person you're talking to, or maybe you'd just like to work the room a little more. Either way, you can exit the conversation gracefully.
Here's Ferriss's inoffensive strategy: He asks, 'Are you going to be here for the rest of SXSW (or whatever event you're attending)?' If the person says 'yes,' he continues: 'Cool, well, do you have a card or something? I'd love to connect, but I just want to wander around, maybe take a little breather.'
Master networker Jon Levy recommends a similar tactic. First wait for a natural lull in the conversation; then make it clear that you were pleased with how the conversation went. Let the person know you'll follow up on certain points and make sincere eye contact with them before you leave.
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