In sales, “working a room” is a well-known phrase. Networking at a business luncheon, cocktail party or a company function all qualify as working a room. When you can successfully move from person to person, introducing yourself and talking about your profession, you have mastered working a room. If you are really good at it, working a room can often turn into business for you or your company.
Working a room without being overbearing requires skill and finesse. It’s all about a captured opportunity to sell. But have you ever thought of “working a bus?” A bus provides a fantastic opportunity for a captive audience.
You may ask yourself, how often do I get the chance to work a bus? More than you think. When you are attending a conference or event and you ride the provided shuttle bus to and from your hotel, think about how you can make better use of this time.
Make small talk while you wait for the bus to arrive. This is an excellent chance to start a conversation that can lead to a seat next to that person on the bus. Eavesdropping is acceptable if you are able to connect yourself to the discussion.
Pay attention to other passengers. Seek opportunities to help others with their briefcases or carry-on items. Initiate a conversation. Find common ground to discuss the hotel where they are staying or the session they last attended. If you are on the same bus, chances are you have something in common.
Ride during peak travel times. Networking opportunities increase when you ride right before sessions begin or at the end of the day when sessions conclude.
Look for the right badge. Before you walk down the aisle look for people who are wearing the color badge that you want to meet and ask if you can sit with them.
Leave the aisle seat open. If you board first, sit by the window. Don’t be embarrassed to invite someone to sit next to you.
Sit toward the front of the bus. People who sit in the first few seats tend to be more outgoing. People that move to the back of an empty bus would probably prefer to be left alone.
Put the cell phone down. Put the electronics away, look up, make eye contact and say ‘hello’ to people walking down the aisle. A friendly greeting makes people feel comfortable.
Have your business cards handy and easily accessible. Make sure your cards are in a top pocket or in your purse. Bus seats are cozy. You don’t want to be reaching into a back pocket or fumbling through a briefcase or backpack to find your cards.
Remember, the bus is an opportunity that can keep on giving. You are destined to ride the shuttle all week together. Use your time wisely and make great, lasting connections!
Our company has loaded hundreds of thousands of passengers at events over the last 22 years. We have also ridden our share of buses and made our own connections. We have observed countless passengers make good use of their shuttle time before, during and after riding a bus. Trust me, the bus is a great place to network and it’s a connection you continue to have long after you get off the bus.
Now, go to your next event and “work a bus.” The rest is up to you!
Eddie Stewart is president of Stewart Transportation Solutions Inc., a ground transportation coordination firm based in Nashville, Tenn. Stewart has been in the transportation and hospitality business for more than 30 years. His company manages numerous corporate and association accounts and spends more than $5 million annually on motor coaches, mini-buses and sedans.