"She's the blonde lady in the black dress."
I looked around at my charity's gala and saw a sea of blonde women in black dresses. How on earth could I find that one donor? Early in my career, I worked in politics and learned a lot of lessons about how to work effectively at a charity event, including my tip below about what to wear to stand out.
Know before you go
A good politician always is briefed before an event. That lets him be sure that he meets or talks to the people who are most important to him. Even if you do something as simple as doing fast prospect research online for all the attendees before you attend, you can identify the 3 or 4 people who are the most valuable for you to meet at this event.
Front and centre
Positioning yourself near the front door of an event or by the registration desk means that you are able to meet most of the people at the event as they arrive. This increases the chance you will be able to greet and connect with the people who you want to be sure to meet at the event early on. It also means you can check who are the "no shows" so you don't spend half the time looking for someone who isn't there.
Wear distinctive clothing
My first political boss always wore shirt sleeves with suspenders. As in old school suspenders with buttons. They were easy to spot and made him stand out in a crowd. I always wear a bright coloured dress for the same reason. When choosing what you are going to wear, think about how someone will describe how to find you and then pick something that will make you easy to find.
Focus on who you are talking to
Have you ever talked to a good politician? When they are talking to you, they give you their full attention. It may be a brief moment, but their eyes stay right on you and listen really well. Beware of wandering eyes. It is easy in a crowded room to be trying to see who is there. When you are talking to someone directly, give them your full attention and then gracefully move on.
I always have a small set of post-its and slim pen in a small purse or pocket. When someone hands me their card, I slip into a corner if there is something I need to follow-up that I need to remember and either write on their card or on a post-it. At the end of the event, I want to be sure I can recall all the To Dos from the event.
Check out the room
Always position yourself for an easy escape. Arrive early and check out where the exits are and think about which exits are the least visible. If you follow the program and you know that the reception is about to end and the long speeches are about to begin, position yourself near the exit so you can make a quick getaway.
Pro tip - as you are preparing to exit the room, glance over your shoulder, face forward but walk backwards. It makes it less visible you are leaving.
Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is the Editor of Hilborn Charity eNews. Early in her career she worked for two years as the scheduler for a Governor.