5 easy ways to network like a pro

The next time you’re at a networking event, buy a round of drinks or recommend a tasty food item. They’re easy ways to break the ice.

I was fortunate enough that the wonderful people at Steiner Sports invited me to the 2013 Baseball All Star Game. In between shoveling hot dogs, pasta and freshly sliced steak into my mouth, I talked to a lot of people. I also watched the person who invited me; he’s a master networker.

I offer you five networking takeaways that I learned and employed at Citi Field this year. They are applicable anywhere:

1. Get a beer for anyone.

I’ve been doing this for years, and it paid off at the All Star Game. The tables in the lounge I was in (thank you, Modells!) were all high-bar tables, meaning you’d meet new people whenever you sat down. There was no assigned seating.

If I got back up to stuff my face, I’d simply bring back another round of whatever everyone else was drinking. Granted, this is easier at an open bar. But come on, who doesn’t like the guy who shows up with another round?

I got three business cards and one “Oh, your new company sounds interesting. Call me,” out of three beers and a vodka soda.

2. Recommend food.

In the lounge, there was a buffet line with chefs behind the pasta bar, meat bar and hot dog bar.

I had my first plate of pasta when I walked in the door. When I went up for a second one, the woman in front of me was having a hard time deciding what to get. I simply told her what I had, and that it was awesome. We then had four minutes to schmooze while the chef prepared the pasta.

This was another introduction. When I emailed her later to tell her it was nice to meet her and offer a little more about what I do, I could simply title the email “From Pasta Guy.” Everyone loves Pasta Guy, Steak Guy or Burger Guy.

3. Be the person who takes the photo.

I watched the game in the company of giants-literally. Darryl Strawberry, Steve Schirripa and Mitchel Modell were there.

As I wandered the clubhouse, I saw more and more people attempt bad selfies with celebrities. A selfie with a celebrity is never a good idea because:

1. At best, you’ll always look awkward.

2. You’ll more than likely have six chins from holding your head back to try and get in the shot.

Selfies are bad in general, but super bad with a celebrity.

So, I walked around, and when I saw someone try to take a photo, I offered to take it for him. The relief that came over the person was massive. He could look his best for a photo that you know was going to be on his Facebook page two seconds later.

Bonus: I could talk to the person. And if I wanted to talk more, I could ask him to friend me so I could see the photo.

4. Find someone who is as awestruck as you are.

As I walked outside of the clubhouse and onto, essentially, the warning track in center field, I stopped for a second and offered a small prayer of thanks. Come on, I’m nobody special. I’m not an actor on TV, a baseball player or a sports star. I’m a guy who got lucky with a few companies, and who tries to be good to people. That has gotten me almost everything in my life.

But when I stand next to Cy Young Award winners or Tony or Oscar winners, I’m floored. I’m just a kid who grew up in New York City public schools. What the heck am I doing here?

It’s an amazing feeling, and if you look hard enough, you’ll find someone else with that same “This is ridiculous!” grin on his face. Friend this person. You’ll have a lifelong connection based on something no one can take away. Some of the people I do the most business with are also New York City kids who are just as amazed at where their lives are taking them as I am.

5. Take advantage of the small space.

Turn to the person next to you and start talking. At the very least, do this. You’re at a fun event and people are having a good time. There’s no reason not to talk to someone who’s having just as good a time as you. You don’t even have to make it about work. In fact, it’s always good to start off not talking about work. Work will always be there. Start with something fun.

At the game, it was hot when we walked out of the clubhouse. Something as simple as, “I wonder if they’ll bring over the hoses they use to wet down the infield dirt?” was a nice opener.

Just talk to people. You’ll be amazed at what comes of it.

What’s your favorite networking tip?

Peter Shankman is the founder of Help A Reporter Out, CEO of The Geek Factory, Inc. He blogs at Shankman.com and is on Twitter @petershankman.


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