Many years ago I first implemented being the perfect host at a friend event, back when the first F Type Jaguar was being launched.

I had gone up to Manchester to support a partner’s event and as I was twiddling my thumbs I decided to grab a coffee from the self-service machine just as the first guests were arriving. Not knowing anyone I started asking each delegate: ‘Would you like tea or coffee, milk, sugar?.’

This went on for about 45 minutes. Yes, I was giving out tea or coffee to about 100 people.

Joining my fellow networkers later, one business owner I served said ‘I am so sorry, I thought you were the tea boy.’
I replied ‘I can be anything you want me to be, as long as I get your business card.’

That day I started off not knowing anyone, by the end of the evening, everyone knew who I was. I have used this approach for many occasions while networking, regardless of whether I know anyone or not.

So here are my top three tips for networking at events:

Arrive early to events.
Stay by the tea and coffee and offer delegates a drink upon arrival.
Introduce yourself and ask them for their business card.

Make sure to follow up on LinkedIn, attaching an invitation to connect with a message along the lines of ‘it was lovely to meet you, I was the tea person who served when you arrived at the event.’

You can still do this if the tea and coffee area is staffed just introduce yourself to the staff member and lend them a hand.

Often, the other guests arriving will be as nervous as you, and the tea and coffee place is the best place to situate yourself to open up a conversation. Nothing breaks the ice like a hot beverage.

By Mark Linton