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Forget what you thought you knew about networking: 3 networking tips from expert Dave Kerpen

By Danielle Brody
AMA New York Programming Committee

Networking tips were in store at the latest AMA New York event. Instead of having the same tired conversations at networking events, a few changes in your approach can foster better connections.

Dave Kerpen, serial entrepreneur, global keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling author of The Art of People and Likeable Social Media shared three simple rules at Networking Ninja on Thursday, Sept. 19. The event, hosted at  Spaces Meatpacking District, kicked off the American Marketing Associations’ Networking Ninja series.

Networking Tip: A signature style makes you stand out from the crowd

Kerpen’s first rule is to have a signature style that is part of your personal brand. He learned this rule when he attended a huge conference to meet an influential venture capitalist, Dave McClure from 500 Startups, to raise money for Likable Local. After waiting in lines all day and striking out, he went to the bar. There, he heard someone say, “I need to meet the man that’s wearing those mother-f-ing orange shoes.” It was McClure who commented on Kerpen’s signature bright orange shoes.

The benefit of a signature style, Kerpen said, is that it gives people something to talk to you about. An added bonus is that it makes it especially helpful for introverts to feel comfortable starting a conversation.

Takeaway: Choose something for your signature style (a tie, pocketbook, hairclip, anything!) and keep it consistent.

networking tips in action
Networking ninjas putting the networking tips into action.

Networking Tip: Ask better questions when you meet new people

Networking always becomes a volley between the same tried and true questions like — “What do you do?” And “Where are you from?”

“There’s nothing inherently wrong about [these questions], but what do you really learn about the person?” Kerpen said.

Kerpen encouraged us to ask different questions that lead to deeper connections. He spoke at a conference where a keynote had everyone had to turn and ask the person next to them three personal questions:

  • “What charity do you care about the most and why?”
  • “If you won the lottery and never had to work again, what would you do?”
  • “What are you most excited about right now?”

In three minutes, you might know more about that stranger than you do your closest friends, Kerpen said. “When you can ask better questions, smarter questions, more engaging questions, more dynamic questions, questions that allow the other person to go deeper, it makes a huge difference,” Kerpen said.

Takeaway: Go out of your comfort zone when you’re talking to new people. If it feels awkward, Kerpen said to blame him. Say the idea came from the event or from his book.

networking-ninja-networking tips
Attendees at the AMA New York Networking Ninja event got networking tips to improve the quality of connections.

Networking Tip: Listen with empathy

While most people’s first instinct is to talk about themselves in a conversation at a networking event, try asking questions and listening. Kerpen once had an interaction with a woman at an event where he spent 20 minutes doing just that. He didn’t share any information about himself. Rather than giving her advice, he listened with empathy.

“When somebody actually gives you that and listens to you and mirrors you and validates you, it is an incredibly affirming thing and it bonds people even better than those deep questions,” Kerpen said.

Takeaway: Say less about you to learn more about someone new. It will make you more likable and lead to a stronger connection in the long-run.

MyMo Mochi Ice Cream
Thank you to sponsor My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream for their delicious treats.

Food sponsor My/Mo brought a freezer on-site for samples of Mochi ice cream. Attendees, who ranged from seasoned marketers to young professionals and recent marketing graduates, tested Kerpen’s relationship-building networking tips with a speed networking session after his talk.