Sample Information Session Walkthrough
In this video, we’re going to go from our information session playbook last time where we discussed the overall strategies and key mindset that you want to have when going into information sessions, and how to get the most out of them. We’re going to make it more specific and go to a more tactical level this time around. I’m going to walk you through an actual example of an information session and how a student at it, who presumably has at least a few months before recruiting begins, so maybe it’s a first year MBA student at a school, who is going to an information session in September or October and he’s going to be recruiting for summer internships in January or December, somewhere in that time-frame, or maybe it’s someone even younger.
Maybe it’s somebody at the university level, and he’s going through the process, because he has his eye out for internship recruiting maybe next year, and he just wants to get a head start in it and start developing relationships right now. This is not going to be a case where this is a last minute thing and the person is going through and just trying to get as many helpful names as possible in hopes that one of them may pass his resume along.
It’s going to really be more of a relationship development exercise, and this is going to be the springboard for it, this information session, the walk through that we’re going to go through now. The overall playbook here; we’re going to follow the rules that I laid out in the playbook, so you should go and watch that overview video or listen to the audio file, if you haven’t already done that. We’re going to follow very closely what I said there, where you really want to be interesting, stand out, get someone’s attention at first, talk to them for a few minutes, get their business cards, and then follow up with them later on.
What I couldn’t do in that video was actually show you on a very granular level, when you go to a real information session, and you have all these students, all these other people crowding around bankers; who do you decide to talk to? How long do you spend talking to them? How do you make your entrance? How do you make your exit? How many names and how much contact information should you really try to get at a given information session? That’s what we’re going to get into this time, that level of detail. Then, I should also point out a disclaimer here that this is a representative information session.
Real ones, in some cases, are a lot bigger than what we’re going to show here. This is the limitation of how much I can fit on one screen. In some real information sessions, you might have hundreds of students attending; you might have dozens and dozens of bankers there. In some cases, it might actually be smaller than this. You might have maybe only two or three bankers, if it’s a really small firm. Maybe you only have 20 people in the room.
In this example, we’re going to go in between those two extremes, but do keep in mind that it is just a representative walk through of an information session. My hope is that you’ll be able to get something from it and learn pretty quickly how to apply it to your own efforts. Keep in mind that real information sessions are not always going to be like this. They’re going to be a bit different, but the principles and the examples that we walk through here are going to be very applicable to whatever networking efforts you put forth as well.
Just to give you some stats on what we’re doing here, we’re going to make the assumption that you can allot two hours to be at this information session. Real information sessions can last anywhere from an hour to possibly three or four hours,
maybe even more than that, maybe less than that, depending on the school or what’s going on. It’s rare to see something that lasts for much longer than that, simply because bankers don’t really have time for it, and in a lot of cases, they have to travel through the school and everything. We’re going to go with the assumption of two hours here. We’re going to go with the assumption that there are 10 bankers at this information session, and a lot of students.
I didn’t actually count up how many we’re going to present here, but there are a lot present. That’s what we’re going to be working with. We’re going to assume that this is the kind of situation where there are around a dozen bankers, 10 bankers here, and there’s going to be a lot of students crowding around them. I’m going to walk you through it now and show you how to get the most out of it, how to approach people, who you should talk to, who you should avoid, and how you should proceed with your networking strategy in this situation.
Here is our so-called football field. This may seem a little bit odd to you, to be representing an information session like this. Basically, the rationale here is that I’m representing students with green dots, junior bankers with blue dots, and then senior bankers with red dots.
You might be wondering, first off, how you can tell the difference between junior bankers and senior bankers, if you go to one of these. The short answer is that in a lot of cases, you can’t. Junior bankers do tend to be younger, obviously. Senior bankers, if it’s a managing director, you’ll usually be able to tell them apart. Sometimes, with VP’s it can be harder to tell. The short answer is, in a lot of cases, you just have to make educated guesses based on who they were, if they announced their title when they were speaking, or maybe you can just glance at them and get an idea, but you do have to do some guess work.
There’s no quick and easy way to do it, in a lot of cases. Most of the time it’s going to be fairly obvious who the younger people and who the older people are. That’s how you would tell them apart. Just looking at this diagram, we see that as is typical for information sessions, and this by the way, may just be one segment of the whole session.
Typically, for bulge bracket banks at target schools, you’re going to have a lot more bankers here than this. You’ll probably have a lot more students as well. This is just the example that we’re going to walk through for now.
A couple things to point out; we see looking at this that probably the two best areas to approach, the two best groups of bankers to approach are actually right here at the top. The first one, because there are only two junior bankers there and there’s only four people surrounding them. That means there’s only people two per banker, which means it’s going to be easier for you to get noticed, easier for you to jump into this conversation. If we look at the rest of the areas on the screen, we can see that there are more bankers, and that’s surrounding each person.
Now, the other area at the top with this one junior surrounded by three students could also be a potential area for you to go to and speak with the people there, but I would suggest that actually the better one would be to go to the two people at the top, maybe pick one of them to have a conversation with, and go there first. Whenever you get to an information session like this, it’s important to take a few minutes and take stock of what’s going on in the room. This is actually something I still do. Obviously, I’m not going to invest in banking information sessions anymore, but I do go to a lot of networking events, a lot of other social events like this, where you’re either meeting people for business or purely social purposes. I always try to figure out who’s crowding around whom,
who are the people that are not talking to many people, and I apply this strategy no matter what the situation is, where I always try to go and speak with the people who are not surrounded by tons of people, as we see in the middle right here. Now, this person, the senior banker in the middle, maybe he’s the CEO. If not the CEO, maybe he’s the highest level person there. He gave the presentation or he gave the introduction for the video that they showed at this presentation. You see that there’s a line of students.
There’s a group of students here that’s literally two lines deep, almost surrounding him and all trying to ask questions and absorb everything he’s saying. You want to stay away from this area. The reason being that; yes, he may be the highest level person there, and may therefore have the most decision making power, but it’s also going to be very difficult to get his attention. You want to stay away from situations like this. You want to go toward people who are not as surrounded by people, even if they’re lower on the totem pole and don’t have as much decision making power. These are the two extremes; the areas that you want to gravitate toward, and then the area that you want to avoid when you first step into the room.
What I would probably suggest doing in this case is, from the entrance, I would probably approach this group of two bankers surrounded by four students, first. What I would do is probably go up to them and make some kind of joke or amusing observation and say, “wow, I can’t believe you guys are here, you’re not pulling all-nighters or anything.” Make some kind of joke about the lifestyle like that that shows you “get it”, you know what’s going on and you can relate to what they’re going through, because maybe you have friends or maybe you’ve done your own research and you know a lot about it.
You could joke about the video or even the weather. It could be any number of things. You just have to take stock of the situation and say something amusing to introduce yourself and get into the conversation. As for whether you try to talk to two of them or one of them, I would say that in most cases it’s going to be almost impossible to talk to two people if they’re surrounded by four students. It’s just not going to work like that. You’re going to have to focus on one. What I would probably do here is, I would probably spend about 15 minutes trying to talk to one of them. I’m saying 15 minutes rather than five to 10 minutes
because you’re probably going to be sharing the person with the other students there, so you’re going to be having to share a conversation. What I would probably do is, open with some kind of joke of amusing comment, like I just laid out, and just start asking them; “tell me about your background, how do I get into this, did you graduate from this school”, and questions along those lines. Try to get them talking about things outside work, asking them, “what do you do in your spare time, if you have any spare time, or, what did you used to do in your spare time”, maybe making a joke about it, like that.
Try to get them to say as much as they can. If you have the opportunity, sure, go ahead and talk to the other person. In situations like this, one that you could consider doing is, maybe you start the conversation with one of them, but then, maybe you could make a suggestion and bring their friend into it, and say, what’s your friend doing over there, is he just sitting by himself, or if the other three or four students. Maybe you could bring him into the conversation by doing something like that, but how about you just going and focusing on one at first and then bring the other one in,
if possible. Then, once you’ve spoken to them for maybe 10, 15, 20 minutes, make up an excuse and say, you know what, and look down at your watch, or cell phone, or blackberry, and say, actually, I have to run to class right now. I’d love to continue talking. Could I actually just get your business card so we can continue this conversation later on? They’ll give you their business cards. Other students around you may actually see you do this, and they may copy you or try to copy you, but it doesn’t matter because you’ll be the first one to have done it. Maybe spend around 15 minutes talking to them, assuming that they’re surrounded by these four other students.
Then, what you want to do is, after you get their business cards, either one or both of them; ideally both, but one is fine too, then you want to take stock of the rest of the room and see what else might be a good opportunity. What I would suggest doing here, is then moving on to the other area that I highlighted before, where you see this one junior banker surrounded by three students. Again, I would open in a very similar way. You can actually use the same joke or same comment, especially because they’re a junior banker.
Just open the same way and start asking questions. In this case, maybe you have more of a connection with the person. Even though there are three students surrounding them, you just ask better questions. Maybe you have more of a connection because you’re from the same area or because you were both the same major at the same school; you find this out in your initial set of questions with them. What actually ends up happening here is that, maybe you’re speaking to them for a much longer…and the other students actually disappear, not literally, but maybe the go off and go get food or talk to other people or something like that. The other students go off and do their own thing, and you actually end up speaking with this guy for 45 minutes.
I mentioned this before in the other video, but if this happens, this is totally fine. Don’t hesitate to speak to someone for a long time. If you have a really good connection, you hit it off really well, maybe they’re in the same frat, maybe you’ve seen them before and you just haven’t talked to them in a while and you’re just catching up, by all means, definitely do this, because the stronger of a connection you make, assuming you can make it, the more help it will be when it comes time for recruiting, either now or in the future. You speak with them for 45 minutes, and of course, once again, you get his business card.
Whether or not you’ve met him before, you always like to get the most up to date contact information, so you get his business card at the end of the conversation. Since he’s a junior banker, after this, since he’s close by, maybe this is in New York or San Francisco or something, he actually has to run off right after this information session and head back to the office or head back to work, so he disappears after this. Nevertheless, you build a pretty solid relationship, or at least get the start of a solid relationship here by making a solid impression and by having something in common with him that sets you apart from the other people there.
Again, it doesn’t always happen. This is just the hypothetical example, but this does happen occasionally in an information session, so you should be prepared for this outcome as well. With that done, you’ve spent an hour so far, 15 minutes at first and then 45 minutes just now at this information session. By this point, this so-called map for this information session has shifted around a bit. Your friend who you were speaking with for 45 minutes is gone now. He’s left and gone back to the office. We also see that now we have more people surrounding the guy in the middle somehow, which is not uncommon.
Typically, at social events like this, you’re going to get a lot more people surrounding one person if there are already a lot of people around him, which really doesn’t make any sense, but I think it’s just because people are drawn toward others that their friends or other people are attracted to or are talking to already. Maybe that’s why it happens. It’s actually good for you, because you know to avoid situations like this, and you know to gravitate toward other people that don’t have quite as many surrounding them instead.
You’ll also see this other junior banker to the right of the senior banker has six people surrounding him, so you probably want to stay away from him as well. The other ones could be moderately okay to go to here, but I would suggest that, actually, in this case, the best alternative is to go to the one all the way on the right here that only has four people surrounding him. I would suggest actually cutting across and going right to him next. Now with four people surrounding him and he being a senior banker, I would not actually approach this too much differently from the junior guys. Maybe be a bit more formal, and you have to be a little bit more careful with what you joke around with, with him,
but I would not hesitate at all to go in and say something like, “These guys look like they’re boring you”, or something like that. Maybe if you’re not feeling that aggressive, just say, “Did you really start off just like those guys in the video?” I’m sure can come up with better ideas than I’m presenting right now. This is just totally off the top of my head. Go in and say something to get his attention. Wait for an opportunity in the conversation if you need to. If there’s a pause, or a lull or something like that and no one says anything for at least a few seconds, just jump in, introduce yourself and say, “I really liked the speech, I liked the presentation, or something like that. Do you guys ever get tired of doing this?”
Maybe make a joke about how much they’ve been travelling for information session. Say, “is this your fifth or sixth information session in a week that you’ve been to?” Do something like that. When you get to talking to them, just get some background information and see what he does at the firm. Try to be casual. Try to see where he went to undergrad, where he went to business school, if he went to business school, if he studied abroad,
what other activities he does, anything else he does outside of the scope of work. Maybe you don’t have a strong connection with him, and there are four other students surrounding him, so maybe you speak with him for about 15 minutes. At the end of this, I would make the same kind of excuse that you used with the other people before, and just say, “I actually have to run to class right now, but let’s just pick this conversation up later. Would you mind if I just get your business card so I can contact you later on?” Get his card and contact information like that. If you’ve spoken with him for a while and you seem intelligent, you seem like a cool person, he’ll give it to you, no problem.
At the end of 15 minutes, we’ve spent an hour and 15 minutes here so far. What I would probably do next is again, take stock of the room. By this point, it’s probably shifted again, as you see right here. The areas that I would point out…this guy in the center has not gotten any better, so I would still stay away from this. If you look at the other people, there’s actually more dots surrounding them now, which is not uncommon, because sometimes people will just show up after an information session has already started; and they’ll be going through, and sometimes you’ll find that if fluctuates;
more people will surround one group, fewer people will surround one group. You always have to keep an eye out for this type of thing and flock to the people that are less surrounded overall by students than other groups. In this case, I would say that the top right corner here where we have these two senior bankers surrounded by six students, is probably the best bet to go to, so I would go directly there.
In this case, I would not approach it too much differently. Since there are two people and six students, in this case, I would probably pick one of them to focus on. Maybe you can pull the other one into the conversation or maybe you can bring up something that gets them into the conversation. I’d probably pick one to focus on at first, and keep it at that. Maybe you spend about 30 minutes here. I’m saying the 30 minute number because with six students there, it’s probably not going to be a conversation that you can completely monopolize, but the same strategy applies. Make a joke, say something amusing, say, “It looks like you’ve been doing a lot of these information sessions”, or,
which number is this?” or, “Do you ever get tired of people asking you the same questions all the time at these sessions?” You can go on with something like that; and if you’re confident and you’ve done this before, it’s really not going to be an issue. They’ll laugh if you make a comment like that, because they are used to getting the same questions over and over from people. If you set yourself apart by doing that, especially with the senior guys who have been doing this for quite a while, you will stand out, and you’ll make a good impression by making a joke and by hopefully leading them into a more casual conversation.
I would try to maybe pull the other person into this if you can. If you can’t, then don’t worry about it. Just get the one card from the one senior banker here. If you can get the other person in, definitely get both of their cards. The same strategy applies. Just say that you have to run off to class. Look at you watch, cell phone, or blackberry. Say, “I’ve enjoyed talking, but I have to get going now. Would you mind if I just get your card so we can continue this conversation later on?” They’ll do it, no problem, assuming you’ve made a decent impression. You also may want to take stock of the room. You may see that there aren’t too many other good openings.
You’ve already been there for almost two hours, at this point, so I would say that by this point, you’ve probably gotten around five or six people’s contact information, you’ve made a decent impression on all of them, and you’ve established a really strong relationship with one of them. I would say it’s actually fine to leave at this point. In general, for information sessions, I would try to get at least five to 10 people’s contact information. Otherwise, it’s not really worth your time to spend hours doing this. In this case, I would say your work is probably done here. If you wanted to and you had the free time, you could probably stick around and talk to some of the other people, try to make an impression on them.
If you feel like you’ve already said what you have to say, you’ve made a good impression on some of them and you’ve gotten contact information for at least five to 10 people, it’s fine to leave at this point. We spent an hour and 45 minutes here, so I would say it’s perfectly fine to take off, in this case, unless you really want to stick around and you have the time to continue talking to other people there.
Let’s just recap now the scorecard and go through exactly what went on here. We spent an hour and 45 minutes; longer than that if we count travel and getting there and registering, or anything else
we had to do, but just about an hour and 45 minutes, so almost two hours total talking to people. We have established six good first impressions; maybe not quite that many, depending on how many people we were actually able to talk to, but at least several good first impressions. We got the business cards of three junior bankers, three senior bankers, and perhaps most importantly, we’ve established a relationship with one banker who will go to bat for us, because we got to know him, we spoke with him for 45 minutes.
Other students left because we were actually monopolizing the conversation, which is fine, if you can pull it off. Actually, I encourage you to do so, because again, any time you can get a really good relationship and other people can’t, it’s going to be in your benefit, in your favor. That’s what we’ve done here. This is an example of how you’d actually go through a real information session like this; this so-called playbook to an actual information session.
Again in real life, it’s not always going to go exactly like this, but I would definitely follow these general strategies where you could scope out the room, you go to the people who are least surrounded by students
and by others at the time. You try to establish early on whether or not they’re going to be helpful or not. You make a good first impression by walking in with a joke or an amusing observation. Then, you say you have to run off, go to class, go to a sport practice, something like that, and get their business card and move on.
In some cases, the person may actually have to leave, as we saw here. If they’re a junior banker, maybe they have to go back to the office and work or something like that. This is the general strategy that I would recommend. What you do next; the next steps immediately following this would be to follow up with some of these people, if not all of these people, and try to establish informational interviews.
If it’s really last minute, you’re running close to when recruiting or resume submissions will begin, just get straight to the point with them and say you want to set up a time to speak for 10 or 15 minutes, and find out more about their recruiting process, find out more about their background and such, and take it from there. Coming up next, we’re going to look at an actual concrete example of how to do that. We’ll look at how you might send a follow up email following an information session like this, to get in touch with someone, maybe meet in person if they’re in the area,
or speak over the phone if they are long distance, and take it from there. We’ll see how you can make very specific requests and how to get the most out of information sessions like this by following up appropriately with everyone that you’ve met there.