I had an interesting conversation with a friend a few nights ago. She was asking about how she should “really network at an event.” At first, I thought it was pretty self-explanatory, but then I thought, you know … I bet there are a lot of young people out there who struggle finding their place in a room full of people they don’t know. Some people are simply terrified. I know, I used to be one of them!
Networking is a powerful way of building professional relationships and it can generate new business opportunities. It is a common process based on the exchange of ideas, advice and contacts. Although there is no one-size-fits-all way to network, it is important to remember proper business etiquette in approaching and developing new professional relationships.
The first and utmost important thing to KNOW and remember is that you have the control and all the power over the impression you make. Here are three simple steps to take with every new person you meet:
Yup, it’s that easy. In fact, a great way to network is to simply introduce yourself to anyone who is standing alone. Chances are, they are begging for someone to approach them anyway.
Be optimistic and have lots of enthusiasm
Do NOT only talk about yourself. What a bore. Be a giver of valuable information and help fellow networkers make connections. This will have a positive effect on your reputation. Plus, people love to talk about themselves. So if worst comes to worst, just listen and let them babble. But really the key is to be enthusiastic, a good listener and use reinforcement in your body language. Keep good eye contact, nod, smile, lean forward (ha, but not too close guys). You can use this to your advantage in a room full of new people. Ask questions about who they are, what they do, who they work for, who they know, etc. Give the people you talk with your undivided attention. Don’t look around the room when you’re in the middle of a conversation. Eek! A great tactic: Get engaged by asking questions you don’t already know the answers to.
Ask for their card
Most people do, especially if you’re at a business event. Ask for business cards so that you can remember their names. Jot down some notes on the back about the unique aspects of the conversation so you can remember them in the future. It’s also important to remember names, ladies and gents. A good trick I use, repeat their name back to them when they introduce themselves (little college psychology trick). Shake hands firmly (women often have a problem with this) and don’t let go of their hand until you’ve repeated their name back. While you have their hand, say “It’s very nice to meet you, Joe” or “It’s certainly a pleasure to know you, Sally.” Try it, it works!
Apply the right networking techniques and you’ll be well on the way to growing your business or rapport, but get it wrong and you’ll be left wondering why you hate networking so much. Here are a few quick things that work for me in certain, awkward situations:
You’ve been talking to someone who is not as interesting as you had hoped. Awkward silences, uneasy gestures, long-winded stories. Yup, we’ve all been there. It’s perfectly okay to say something like, “Will you excuse me for a moment, there’s someone I want to meet OR say hi to.” It’s a perfectly acceptable thing to say. Simply smile and walk away. Enough said.
What’s your name again?
I’ve learned this “oops” the wrong way. If you run into someone you already met and can’t remember their name, simply say “Hello again. Remind me of your name.” Be clever with your approach. But remind them of your name too!
Eek, it’s THAT guy again
If you find yourself back talking with someone you didn’t particularly care for, ask if they’ve met anyone especially interesting that you might like to meet. Or point out someone you found interesting. Or both. It’s a great way to mingle around the room. Plus, if you’re one of those people who needs a “wing man” it’s an effortless way to get more comfortable with others.
Remember, networking is always easier when you’re optimistic and feeling good about yourself. So don’t hold off by ‘hanging’ with friends the entire time. Have fun and be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is extremely contagious and if you do it right, you’ll soon be the main attraction at events! After more practice, people will start to seek YOU out to talk with you.
Specific questions? Feel free to send me a tweet or email me.