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I recently attended a networking course which shared many common sense approaches to the topic. The course discussed quality networking (as opposed to quantity). It outlined not just building up your network (adding more business cards or LinkedIn connections) but rather making meaningful connections. It spoke of those who would be there to help if needed and those whom you would wish to assist too.

I’d like to share some important take-aways regarding networking especially as they apply to conferences. Community members might want to keep them in mind when attending SAP Inside Track events, SAP TechEd 2012 and other conferences.

Pre-conference tasks – make 2 lists of your strengths and goals:

  • Strengths: What do you bring to the table? Know your strengths! These are as varied as the people in attendance. They range from professional accomplishments to character traits such as great listener, awesome strategist, perfect executioner etc. Be sure to be aware of your own capabilities. Everyone is special, in what ways are you?
  • Goals: Create goals! In order to network you need to know what your ‘end game is’. Again there could be multiple requirements pertaining to each aspect of your life. It could be personal, such as gaining great new running partners to help you reach a fitness goal or it could be business related such a finding the perfect partner to collaborate with on a new project. The goals should be:
    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Ambitious
    • Achievable
    • Set before the conference!

Actions to keep in mind while attending the conference:

  • Curiosity – When meeting new people in an event, (and it may sound elementary) but be sure to ask questions. This may come naturally to some while it might be harder for others, for example those who are a bit shy. Some say it may feel intrusive or not polite to ask questions of another. However if you show a natural curiosity in the person and ask more about the topics they are freely sharing that interest you, (as long as you’re respectful and considerate) then you’ll learn more and interact better.
  • Amplify (strengthen) the person you’re speaking with – People naturally like and gravitate towards positive people who help build others up. Be encouraging towards those you interact with.
  • Be ready to help – give! Often people think of networking in terms of what they can get however true networking (relationship building) begins with giving. Try to think how you can help the person you’re speaking to; providing a good idea, making a helpful connection etc.

*Our own Marilyn Pratt is one of the best ‘givers’ that I know and therefore it comes as no surprise that she’s a marvelous networker. She is always listening deeply and thinking how she can assist those around her. Watch her in action during TechEd, it’s a treat!

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  • Additional tips before a conference:
    • Be sure you do your homework before attending – who do you want to meet? A few examples:
      • Interesting people from the SCN spaces you frequent. Are they providing a session? Be sure to visit the TechEd space and check out the educational sessions!
      • The new ‘Blog It Forward’ Challenge is a great way to get to know our community members a bit better.
      • SAP Mentors are always easy to spot with their Jerseys, perhaps begin interacting in the Mentor Space first.
    • Bring enough business cards – while it’s not the quantity, you do want to be able to connect after the event J Be sure to also take a business card of every person you speak with.
    • Speak with those around you (during lectures, at lunch etc.) – there are many great ways to meet people. While sitting at DemoJam, in line for a coffee…be open to every opportunity to meet those around you.
    • Approach speakers after their session & provide feedback – If you found a session interesting and helpful, don’t be shy to approach the speaker and develop the conversation.
    • Try to quickly find a way to help the person you’re speaking with
    • If there are more than two people be sure to include everyone in the conversation
    • Look into people’s eyes so they know that you’re really ‘with’ them
    • Speak less, listen more

I hope these tips were helpful. I will be in SAP TechEd Las Vegas this year and would love it if you came by the Community Clubhouse (where I’m likely to be) and introduce yourself! Feel free to connect before (or for those not attending) via twitter, @GKS.

Wishing everyone a great conference and successful networking!

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23 Comments

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  1. Frank Koehntopp

    That’s an excellent post – maybe we should expand it with TechEd specifics as we go along; or add links to TechEd activities worth mentioning.

    Will you be in Madrid as well?

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    1. Gali Kling Schneider Post author

      Love your suggestions Frank! 

      There is more to share but I curbed my enthusiasm as I was worried the post was too long  😉   I hope everyone feels free to comment with additions. For example I highly recommend SCNotties fun. For those unfamiliar check out 2011, its a great way to see another side of members and break the ice during conversations!

      Unfortunately it doesn’t seem that I will be in Madrid this year.

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    2. Tom Van Doorslaer

      The part I like best about this blog, is that it focuses on the goal of your network.

      It’s not about “knowing as many people as possible”, but about “knowing the people that matter to you”. All too often, I get linkedIn invites from people with over 1K connections and I always wonder if they even truly know a handful of them.

      oh, PS Gali, shouldn’t it be “realistic” instead of achievable and “timely” instead of Set before the conference? (you know: SMART) 🙂

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  2. Karin Tillotson

    Thanks Gali for some excellent networking tips!  I will be sure to stop by the Community Clubhouse in Vegas to say “Hi” 🙂 .

    Best Regards,

    Karin Tillotson

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  3. Kumud Singh

    Hi Gali,

    It is indeed a great pleasure to meet different people at different events and keep it going. Thanks for sharing with us the networking tips!

    Noticed that the document on Overview of Educational Sessions at SAPTechEd 2012 does not contain the list for Bangalore. Will it be updated? Thanks.

    Regards,

    Kumud

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  4. Stephen Johannes

    Great tips and I will provide one technique that should allow those of us who tend not be as outgoing in real life to easily meet a broader group of people over the conference.  My example is based on my Las Vegas Attendance experience.

    At each of the designated meal times try to sit at a table where you don’t know anyone for either breakfast or lunch.  When you sit down introduce yourself and try to find out during the lunch more about the person or persons at your table.  Also if you are not in hurry for your next session, try to stretch you lunch so that if you sit at a semi-full table you may end up one or two waves of people stopping by.  You may not always end up with people in your same area, but its a great way to talk to people of different backgrounds.

    Take care,

    Stephen

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  5. Susan Keohan

    Hi Gali,

    One of my favorite (unscheduled) activities is to find a half-filled table at lunchtime, and go sit down with strangers.  I love to find out why they are at TechEd (or ASUG, Sapphire, whatever) and what they like to do.

    It is also great, from a speaker’s point of view, to have someone come up to you after your session to ask questions.  This means they were engaged!

    Thanks for putting this blog out, just in time for us all to study 🙂

    Sue

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  6. xMoshe Naveh (Old Acct)

    Hi Gali!

    What a great blog:) Besides the helpful content, I really like its structure.

    I already started to think about the topics you related to and surely will implement them when I will be in SAP TechEd Bangalore  (Yay:)! My first in TechEd:)).

    Thanks a lot,

    Moshe

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  7. Michelle Crapo

    Excellent post – great ideas!   But what about “shy” people.   We are out there.  It is a challenge to go out and meet others.   Yes, really, I am shy by nature.   I have to constantly push myself out of my comfort zone to meet and talk with people.   Some of them, well some of them know so much more than I.   They are the ones I have a harder time approaching.  I don’t want to sound like a complete idiot.

    Oh – and by the way – if you are curious – for me it has never gotten better.  So I don’t believe people when they say the more you do it the easier it will be.   Maybe someone has a different experience.  Share it please.

    So yes, all these tips and tricks will work.   But only if  I push myself out of my comfort zone to meet people.  I’ll be doing that at Teched.  It is more than worth the effort.

    For those that are not shy – many that have replied to the blog.   Look for people like me.   We will be the ones hanging back slightly.    Try to bring us into the conversation.  You’ll be surprised at how many we are.

    I have an advantage – shhhh don’t tell anyone my secret,  I speak at Teched.   That isn’t really hard for someone shy.  We are speaking at people, and not trying to make small talk.   I love to speak, because that attracts people to me.  I don’t have to find them.  YES!  Score. I don’t have to step out of my shy box.   Because someone is approaching me.  But sadly everyone can’t speak at the event.

    So from most of the people who have replied – please search us out.   We need you to help make Teched a better experience.   It will be fun meeting you.   And I’m all about fun!

    Michelle

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    1. Tom Van Doorslaer

      I have the same problem. I’m really bad at small talk. I’m one of those neurotic people that believe small talk is a waste of valuable mental time. I hate the question: “how are you” . Well, I don’t really hate it, I just think it’s useless.

      So when I want to go and talk to someone, I really need to have a topic in my head.

      In that sense, Gali Kling Schneider gave a great tip:

      make a list of people you want to meet.

      And I add: write down what you want to talk about with them.

      so:

      Matthias Steiner: “Hey Mat, any cool new toys on Neo? My trial account is expiring, how can I extend it? Btw, I created this cool new application”

      Mario Herger: “Hi Mario, can you tell me something more about the gamification topics you’re working on at SAP?”

      Michele Crapo: “Hi, Uhm… *pause* How about those crazy developers huh… Good thing it’s not raining… *aaaawkwaaaard…*

      Just kidding off course. 🙂

      But it’s a good idea to prepare yourself and do some research on the people you want to meet and which topics you want to talk about. Also plan ahead and try to predict where they will probably roam about, or which presentations they give, so you can sneak up on them and catch them by surprise. That way, you have the strategic advantage of the element of surprise.

      Dang, I shouldn’t have had that extra cup of coffee…



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      1. Fred Verheul

        Jeezz Tom,

        I’ve never this much small talk written down in a comment. Please control yourself.

        I was planning to meet you in Madrid (can’t disclose the details yet, still unsure about weather / travel / … as subject), but now I’m having second thoughts…

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      2. Kumud Singh

        Oh Tom,

        I am so sorry but I so much disagree with you here or at least my personal experience differs so much!  We should plan for on-spot friendships as well and I would say I rely on them so much and they have all turned out to be so good in long term. If I go prepared with my list I am sure I would not be able to achieve any new friendships at these events which are meant to meet different and different people and know about them. Hmmm..just my thoughts but take my word I would never make any list of people I would like to meet or the topics I would like to talk to them!

        Regards,

        Kumud

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        1. Tom Van Doorslaer

          Granted, most of what I’m saying is pretty silly and clearly exagerated, but the essence still holds true.

          If you have problems approaching people just out of the blue, it helps to establish common grounds and have a topic to talk about. Once the conversation gets going, it can lead to anywhere. It’s just that first step.

          If you’re quite comfortable to just step up to someone and start chatting away, that’s great. I envy you for that.

          but if you’re not, it helps to plan ahead a bit

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  8. Gali Kling Schneider Post author

    Tom Van Doorslaer I completely agree that SMART is another wonderful way to prepare your goals!

    Karin  Tillotson I look forward to seeing you in Vegas!

    Kumud Singh yes it will be updated 🙂

    Stephen Johannes & Susan Keohan with both of you suggesting this great tip, its certainly one I plan on implementing!

    xMoshe Naveh (Old Acct) I’m certain you’ll have great networking fun in Bangalore!

    Michelle Crapo thank you so much for sharing here what so many people who are a bit on the ‘shy’ side feel. Its admirable that you keep pushing yourself outside your comfort zone and heartening to know that you feel the beneficial results.

    I can share that from my side, sometimes I worry when I approach someone who is alone “what if they want to be alone now and you are bugging them?”.

    I think many people have concerns when approaching new people for various reasons (am I bothering them, will I make a fool of myself etc.) but in most cases its worth the effort.

    On a personal note and an additional tip for networking, its very useful to include your image in your profile. That way if I saw you at an event, I could come and say “hi”. And I certainly would want to.

    Gali

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  9. Tim Guest

    I agree with all your points on here. It is important to set some key objectives before any event and definitely having s list of “Online Friends” you wan to meet in person is good. Hopefully I will meet you at TechEd Madrid.

    Tim

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    1. Gali Kling Schneider Post author

      Yeah I look forward to seeing you then Prateek!!

      For anyone interested I will be hosting an expert networking session on the topic in Vegas on Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 16:30 in Lounge 3. Hope to see you there!

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