The art of face-to-face networking is not a random event. That is particularly true of a lunch or meal function. In most cases, you will be seated between two people.
At any meal event, you have many choices:
- Sit with random people you don’t know.
- Sit with friends and/or people you do know.
- Choose to sit with one or two people you would like to know more about.
- Sit down at an empty table, and wait to see who surrounds you.
There are certainly other options, but I recommend #3. The most effective way to expand your circles is to invite one or two specific people to sit with you.
An ideal strategy is to find out, in advance, who has RSVP’d for the event. Even if an RSVP list is not available to you, in advance, be the first one to arrive and review the meeting badges, laid out on the registration table.
Review them, and pre-select 4-5 people who would be food for you to know… or become more familiar with. Think about who and why those people may be important as part of your circle of business contacts. Connect with them during cocktails, chat a bit, and ask 1 or 2 to join you for the meal. If not already committed, it’s likely they’ll be flattered, and join you.
Use the time and opportunity to ask questions, and learn about your meal companion.
And then follow up. Do that, consistently, and your contacts will grow.