The 2017 RAPS Regulatory Convergence at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor on the Washington, DC, waterfront 9–12 September, will offer attendees more than educational sessions and workshops. A big part of the value of the Convergence—or of any conference—lies in its networking opportunities. At the Convergence, you will be surrounded by people who truly ‘get it.’ They understand regulatory issues, and have gathered together to examine them in depth, share ideas and meet other like-minded professionals. You won’t want to miss the chance to build and strengthen your professional relationships among this group.
There will be many opportunities to meet new people or catch up with old colleagues at the Convergence, including scheduled networking events like the Grand Opening of Exhibit Hall and Taste of National Harbor Reception, the evening dine-arounds or the closing reception, as well as numerous chances for informal conversations over lunch or in the hallways in between sessions.
Wherever and whenever networking takes place, you will want to make the best impression you can, and hopefully build long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships. To do that, there are a few networking basics you should keep in mind.
1. Pay Attention to Body Language
Sometimes you walk into a reception or event not knowing anyone. Some people thrive in this type of situation. Others dread it. Whether you are in the former or the latter camp, you stand a better chance of smoothly integrating yourself into a conversation with someone new by paying a little attention to body language. A loud group, laughing and joking or a group forming a tight circle may be less welcoming than a more loosely formed group with some participants facing outward. People in groups that are welcoming may make eye contact with you as you approach. A group experiencing a lull in conversation may be looking for the spark you might bring to it.
2. Be Genuine
Building relationships is about building trust. It’s difficult to build trust if you aren’t being yourself. People often can sense it when someone is trying too hard to be “on” or acting too friendly too soon, and as a result they may be more guarded themselves.
3. Be Helpful
Some of the best networkers are those who look first for what they can do for others. Go into conversations with the intention to be as helpful as you can to those you meet. You may find immediate small things you can do to be helpful, and thus build trust. You may be able to make an introduction to someone or offer a bit of knowledge in an area of your expertise. Sometimes, something you can do with only a small effort on your part may make a big difference to your new contact.
4. Find Common Ground
When meeting someone new, we tend to relax a bit more when we learn we have a common interest or mutual friend. Finding some common ground, even the superficial kind, can serve as a pathway to deeper more meaningful conversation. It could be any number of things that provides that initial common bond—having similar backgrounds, a mutual colleague, or even having spent time in the same city.
5. Get People to Talk About Themselves
How can you get the conversation started? Get people talking about themselves. Research shows talking about ourselves triggers the same pleasure centers in the brain as food or money. Taking a genuine interest in someone else’s work, life or perspective helps you show that you are a sympathetic, trustworthy person, and finding out more about someone else will make it easier to find common ground or figure out how you can be helpful.
6. Ask Open-Ended Questions
Open-ended questions that get at the ‘why’ or ‘how’ of things and do not lend themselves to short, ‘yes or no’ answers can help keep conversations going and lead them in new directions. Don’t just ask someone you meet ask whether he or she liked a certain session or speaker, ask what was most interesting about it or why the topic matters.
7. Keep it Positive
Negativity is not attractive, and no one wants to be around an incessantly negative person. In your conversations, try to focus on something you are excited about or something useful you learned rather than something you didn’t like. That doesn’t mean you can’t voice a critical opinion, just don’t dwell on the negative.
8. Follow up Afterward
This probably goes without saying, but if you offer help to someone you meet at the Convergence, be sure to follow up in a timely manner. Same goes if someone you meet refers you to someone else. Backing up words with action goes a long way toward engendering the trust that is so important in building relationships. Even if nothing was promised, sending out a few brief emails when you return to the office letting people know you enjoyed meeting them helps solidify the foundation for new relationships.
To get more information or register for the Regulatory Convergence, visit RAPS.org/convergence.
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