Nelle Sacknoff is a strategic and creative multilingual marketer who considers herself a data nerd. She is passionate about building and scaling high-performance marketing and sales programs, campaigns, and teams in nine languages and 37 countries. Nelle enjoys developing people, teams, and relationships as much as business and B2B SaaS/PaaS industries.
Nelle was a panelist at one of our Marketing events. In this interview with The Expat Woman, she shares five tips on how to network successfully.
Networking at events can feel intimidating for some people. What is your advice for making great connections?
Everyone has different ways of making connections. It’s tricky to give advice universally because, as a marketer, I’m always thinking about the audience, the topics and themes of the event, and the needs of the folks you’re meeting.
I tend to approach these types of events leading with genuine curiosity, open and interested in learning, and being helpful/supportive, rather than ‘networking.’ This way, the connections usually follow either because of shared interest/style, curiosity, challenge, or relevant experience and expertise that would lead to a follow-up conversation.
Summarize your current role and recent work.
Before an event, I’ll take a moment to think about my quick summary of where I’ve been working and what most recently I’ve been working on that’s relevant to the event. I may throw out something interesting I’ve been working on at work that’s more challenging, surprised me, or I’m particularly excited about to invite others’ input. I’ll even include something I’m exploring outside of work for personal or professional development that may be a connecting point for others.
Research speakers and attendees.
I’ll do a quick skim of the event speakers and attendees online to think about questions I might ask folks if I can speak with them.
Ask about hobbies.
If you’re more comfortable making personal connections first rather than professional, ask folks about what they’re excited about outside of work like their hobbies and personal interests, why they came to the event, or how they’re even dealing with work/life balance (I’m always curious about this!).
Read up on the event’s theme/topic ahead of time.
If you’re more scholastic and maybe more introverted, and are better at grounding yourself in facts and scholarly topics that connect you first—think about some industry-relevant questions you’re curious about that are relevant to the event theme.
I find I’m able to connect with folks often when I ask them to give examples of practical applications or relevant challenges/solutions having to do with the event theme. (I also usually pick up some helpful tips and tricks, or perspective to something I’m working on). Sometimes, reading some articles gets my juices/ideas flowing for these types of curiosity questions.
I’ve used these challenge or ‘research’ questions as a reason to gently introduce myself into a conversation – when there’s a natural pause in the conversation. I often say things like, ‘Hi I’m Nelle, I’ve talked to quite a few people about this [relevant challenge or topic] and curious to get your take on it? Learning or reading about anything lately that you’ve found helpful?’ I do this to help either strike up a conversation and/or get the connection going.
Talk less, and ask more questions.
Often, I’ll simply introduce myself and ask people what they’ve been working on and some interesting challenges or surprises they’ve either been excited about recently. This can help them open up first and give you some time to settle into the conversation. Also, I try to listen for commonalities to my experiences or connections to other conversations I’ve had recently. If they’re talking about something interesting and helpful, and they seem enthusiastic to share, I’ll ask them to ‘tell me more.’
If I’m interested in following up later, I think about how I can be helpful to them. For example, if they’re trying to work out the best way get buy-in on a new strategy or strengthen peer relationships, you might share with them an interesting fact, book, or article you read recently that’s relevant. Or sometimes, I just directly ask—anything specific you’ve been looking to learn more about or get help/support on lately?