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Who to Talk to When Playing the Networking Game
By: Don McLean
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You walk in a room for a networking event. The music is playing, you have your drink, you’re feeling good. Who do you talk to?

Much has been written on how to network but less is focused on who to network with. I have eight targets to look for when I want to meet new people, no matter the situation. Some types you’ll read and think it’s a no-brainer, while others you may have never considered speaking to.

The outlier
This is the woman who came by herself because she's really interested in the lecture or the guy who nobody wants to talk to sitting in the corner. They're typically comfortable by themselves and may be looking for someone to talk to, just like you.

The tall one
A colleague of mine networks by always picking out the tallest person in the room and talking to them first. The taller people tend to command attention and many times end up being decision-makers.

The volunteer
Speak with the helpers. Often times the people who are helping with events have an affinity for the field. I've talked to many volunteers who were entrepreneurs, authors, or rock stars in their own right.

The person you know
How do you network with someone you know? Easy. Just have them introduce you to someone they know. Personal introductions go a long way. Next time you're in this situation just ask who at the event is someone you should really talk to and let it flow from there.

The hungry dude
This is the person in front of you or behind you in the food line. You already have something in common, you're hungry. Start there, then sit with them if they seem interested.

The bar fly
Similar to the hungry dude, this is the person grabbing a drink. It usually takes a minute or two to get a drink, just enough time to start a short conversation. Hey — you have to stand there to get a drink anyway; you might as well have something to say.

The phone charger
Again, you have something in common with this gal. Both of your phones are dying. If you see someone with their phone plugged in, plug yours in too. Chances are you could use the extra few percent if you’re live tweeting at an event. At Fuel: Detroit, I had a great conversation with the director of a very reputable firm for more than 20 minutes waiting for our phones to charge.

The entertainment
When the band takes a break, walk over to them. Show appreciation for their talents. People in bands tend to know a lot of people and they’re great connectors. Most of the time, those guys have regular day jobs too.

Get started with these eight and go from there. At any given event I can usually hit more than half of these categories. With these profiles, I’ve been able to start friendships, business relationships, LinkedIn connections, and even be considered for and win some new business.

Who do you look for when networking? Please don’t say you look down at their badges.


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About the Author
Don McLean, MBA is an account supervisor at Airfoil Group, an independent marketing and public relations firm serving tech companies and innovation-centric brands with offices in Detroit, New York and Silicon Valley. Follow Don on twitter at@mclean_don.  
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