Today is Super Bowl 50. It's the perfect day to relax with friends and make some new ones. Super Bowl Sunday isn't necessarily a day you'd consider ideal for growing your professional network, but it is. Let's look at a few facts.
You will be watching the Super Bowl.
You will likely watch the game at a Super Bowl party.
New relationships are born everywhere. Networking rules apply in every group situation.
You must be in it to win it!
I am about to write something blasphemous but stick with me. I don’t care for football. Does this mean I will miss an opportunity to watch the Super Bowl with a group? Heck no. The Super Bowl is yet another opportunity to meet new people and to grow your network. The following are the rules of networking during Super Bowl parties. Put these to good use.
1. Don’t arrive empty handed
When you arrive at the Super Bowl party, be sure to bring something for the group. If you want to make friends, bring chili. If you want to make more friends, bring regular chili and vegetarian chili. Bring along a bottle of hot sauce to please everyone's palates. Make even more friends by bringing chicken wings. According to the National Chicken Council, Americans will eat 1.3 billion, or 162.5 million pounds, of wings during the game!
2. Break the ice with, “Broncos or Panthers?”
Introduce yourself to the roaring football fanatics. Repeat names a few times in your initial conversations, so you remember them. Ask them who they are supporting, the Carolina Panthers or Denver Broncos. Ask them why they are supporting the team. This opens up the opportunity for your new acquaintance to tell you more. Ask follow-up questions. Remember to let them do the bulk of the talking.
3. Keep it business casual
Don’t be the person only talking about business, but understand we all do business. Ask the person what they do for a living. Where do they work? What is their role? What challenges have they been facing this year? Listen carefully to learn of opportunities where you can help them. Perhaps you can offer an introduction to someone in your network who is looking for a job, or to a vendor of a product or service that could help their company. Networking is about helping others first. Find ways to help them.
4. Shh, I'm watching the commercials
We all know that the Super Bowl commercials are the cream of the crop. This year a 30-second spot costs $5 million. That is a hefty price tag and worth talking about. The ads are definitely part of the whole Super Bowl experience, so be sure to keep quiet during the commercials and share your favorites with your new friends. If you want to cheat, you can watch most of the commercials before game time on YouTube.
5. Chat about the halftime show
Coldplay and Beyonce will be rocking out during the halftime show. Ask which act is their favorite. Ask what their all-time favorite halftime performance was. Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of every act that has performed during the halftime show over the years.
6. Go easy on the beverages
Let’s face it, beer is the official drink of the Super Bowl. Just like any networking event, limit yourself. Water is delicious and should be consumed liberally.
In 2015, there were more than 4,000 alcohol-related traffic crashes in Tennessee. The Auto Club of Southern California conducted a study last year that found a 77 percent increase of alcohol-related crashes during Super Bowl Sunday.
Be responsible and call a cab, or use Uber or Lyft instead of driving.
Here's $50 free credit from Lyft or $15 off your first Uber ride.
Aside from meeting new people, following up is the most important part of networking. When you share an experience like watching the Super Bowl together, you have a great opportunity to follow up.
Give your new friend a call or send them an email. Provide them with something helpful like a link to the best commercial you watched together, an introduction to someone in your network or just to schedule a coffee or lunch.
Follow these Super Bowl Sunday networking tips and you will be sure to score a touchdown for your business or career. I apologize for that pun, I couldn't resist.
This article originally appeared in The Tennessean Newspaper.