Networking Tips from a Pro: Kirk Hill
Feature writer: Lisa Dalla Vecchia, @lmdallavecchia
This month, I would like to introduce you to Kirk Hill, a genuine connector who is able to effortlessly work a room, and is often recognized both for his beaming smile and enthusiastic laugh. He is also Assistant Dean, External Relations at the SFU Beedie School of Business, and is responsible for the development and implementation of strategies to promote and support broad-based external relations and community engagement on behalf of the business school. With all of his networking experience, I can’t think of a better person to ask to share networking tips.
How do you work a room?
It’s all about getting comfortable, so I tend to look for people I know or recognize to say hello to first. During the course of a conversation, it’s only natural that I’ll be introduced to someone else, and I make sure to do the same for others. If I sense a connection between two individuals, I’ll make sure to introduce those individuals to each other.
How do you break the ice?
Smile and introduce yourself. Mention why you’re at the event and ask the person with whom you’re speaking what brought her to the event. Look for commonalities.
What should you do if you forget someone’s name?
Wait to introduce yourself, but always be upfront. Ask for the person’s name and apologize…and make a point of not forgetting that person’s name again.
What advice would you have for networking “newbies”?
I think that we all can admit that it’s most challenging when networking and representing yourself versus a brand. But you just need to frame the situation differently. It’s not about networking, but about research and trying to better understand something. If you’re looking for a new job, treat networking as an integral component of your research. If you’re a student or a recent graduate, start your introduction by mentioning that you are a student/recent graduate, explain why you decided to come to the event (be it the topic or speaker), and then have a conversation. Do not mention that you’re looking for a job.
What is the biggest misconception about networking?
That it’s all about collecting business cards. Aim on receiving three to five business cards for a networking event that lasts about an hour. I used “receiving” because the key is to have someone offer you their card versus asking for someone’s card.
What is the biggest mistake you can make at a networking event?
Spending the entire time with one person or trying to meet everyone in a room. These are two extremes that should be avoided.
How do you gracefully end a conversation?
Most people that attend networking events know that they are there to network and meet new people, so as long as you’re polite about it, they won’t take offense. Try “It’s been wonderful to speak with you. There are a few others that I’d like to meet,” and shake hands. Another way is to offer your business card and say, “It’s been a pleasure, may I offer you my card?”
How important is LinkedIn?
It’s becoming more important. Just look at the stats: as of February 2012, there are more than 150 million members in over 200 countries and territories; over 5 million members are in Canada. By using LinkedIn, you’re building a professional brand. And it’s great for research – companies, jobs, alumni. But nothing beats meeting someone in person and building a rapport. Use LinkedIn to keep in touch.
What are some of your favourite networking events?
We’re fortunate that in Vancouver, there is no shortage of networking events. However, if you’re trying to decide on an event to attend, it’s important to look at the topic first. If you’re looking to learn more about a particular industry, say mining, look for events sponsored by the Mining Association of BC. For tech, there are so many great organizations and associations: BC Technology Industry Association (BCTIA), Vancouver Enterprise Forum (VEF), DigiBC to name but a few. The Vancouver Board of Trade also hosts a variety of events across industry; again, look at the topic. There really are too many to list!
Student-run club events are great and I attend as many as I can. And if you’re a student, look for a student rate (as there is usually one available). If you can’t find one, contact the organization and inquire. If that fails, volunteer!
Now that you’re armed with tips from a pro…what are you waiting for…happy networking!
Lisa Dalla Vecchia