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Working the Room: How to Make the Most of an Industry Event

Working the room at
industry functions is a time-honored strategy for savvy job-seekers.
Even if
you're not actively looking for a new position, it's an ideal way to mix
mingle with people who can help you expand your knowledge of your
and potentially advance your career. These dozen timely tips will help
you take
full advantage of your next meet-and-greet opportunity - before, during
after the event.


1. Choose your events. In the cable and media
industry, you have a gold mine of opportunities, ranging from the
spring and fall Cable Connections
to  luncheons, seminars, golf outings,
charity fundraisers and conferences hosted 
by targeted professional groups such as CTHRA, CTAM, NAMIC, SCTE, WICT,
and others. You can easily identify the events that deliver the audience
want to reach by visiting the event listings posted on the associations'
trade publications' Web sites.

Do some homework.
Carefully review
the roster of registered attendees (often provided to registrants) and
note the
names of people with whom you'd especially like to connect. If the
list isn't readily available to you, check out the list of speakers in
registration kit or on the event Web site. Research the key players to
get an
idea of their backgrounds and interests, both on and off the job, so
you'll be
prepared for constructive conversations.

Dress for success.
It goes without
saying that the "uniform of the day" (or evening) may vary depending
upon the
nature of the event and the culture of the particular group. Whether
dressing for a technical seminar, a luncheon round-table or a black-tie
think in terms of comfort as well as appearance. If at all possible,
give any
new outfit a "test drive" in advance. You won't make your best
impression - or
fully absorb the action around you - if you're distracted by tight
shoes, a
chafing collar label or a dress strap that just won't stay put.
Remember, you
are the product you wish to market.

Bring business cards.
You'd be
amazed how many people forget this key marketing tool. If you're
unemployed, have cards made up with your name, full contact information,
profession, i.e. Human Resources Consultant, Web Designer, Finance
Keep them close at hand in a pocket or the sleeve of your badge holder.
simply dropping the cards into your brief case or large purse, or you'll
yourself fumbling to retrieve them. Do not show up with a stack
resumes to pass out. For one thing, it will make you look desperate; for
another, there's a good chance the recipients will simply toss the
paper into the closest trash can.


5. Don't overindulge. Aside from the negative
image you'll present by downing excessive food and drink, you'll defeat
purpose for attending the event in the first place. Your first priority
is not
the meal but rather to make connections. Furthermore, the surest route
to a
good first impression with anyone is a firm, sincere handshake - and you
deliver that when your hands are filled with drinks, canapés and

6. Take the initiative. Don't stand around waiting
for formal introductions. If there are specific people you'd like to
meet, ask
a mutual acquaintance to introduce you. Or simply walk up and introduce
yourself. Don't be shy about gently inserting yourself into
That's part and parcel of events like these. Just remember to ask for
cards before you leave the group!

7. Circulate. Whatever you do, don't cling to the person you came
with or attach yourself to the one or two people you may know in the
Instead, follow the Ten Minute Rule: A general rule of thumb is to spend
more than 10 minutes in conversation with any one person. It's
counter-productive to engage in long discussions with people you already
well. Remember: Your objective here is to make new quality contacts
rather than
chewing the fat with someone you see regularly.

8. Ask and listen. Show genuine interest in the people you meet.
about their families, careers and personal interests. Unless it just so
that someone has a position to fill that's right up your alley, don't
dwell on
yourself and your job search. That can come later in your follow-up
Remember, in order to be effective at networking you are seeking to turn
casual encounter into a short or long-term opportunity. Therefore look
for ways
to make the connection in some way mutually beneficial.

9. Give and take. Whenever you give someone a card, request one
return. If the recipient doesn't have a card and you have the
opportunity, ask
for an email address, and jot it down, along with the person's name and
company. In many cases, especially at seminars or professional
courses, this information will be included in the attendee roster.


Follow up.
As soon as possible after
you return home, send a cordial e-mail message to everyone you met, and
a resume. You might want to develop a one-page version aimed
specifically at contacts
who don't have job openings, and may not even be in your particular
field, but
who could provide valuable leads. Rather than targeting a particular
simply list your key skills and qualifications, along with your career
and whatever industries or employers most interest you. These nuggets of
information just may remind your new-found allies of opportunities
heard about or friends who could help you.

Stay on the radar screen.
This is
where tip number 8, "ask and listen," comes in. Set a search engine
alert for
your contacts' names and their prime interests, and any time you receive
appropriate "hit" - which could be anything from a professional award to
daughter's blue ribbon in a horse show - send a message of
congratulations. Or
forward an article on a topic you discussed.

Organize your contact list.
dedicated contact-management software or a general-purpose spreadsheet
give you the advantage of being able to quickly search, sort, maintain
and categorize your contacts. The key to really building relationships
is to
keep track of and stay in touch with your cohorts who can help advance
career and industry visibility whether you are employed or in job

The authors are both CTHRA Board Members.