In my first article, Networking: How To Stop Dreading It, and Start Enjoying It (Really!) I explored the main problem most of us have with networking, and that is our attitude toward it. Most of us only do it when we have to, and even then, we do it grudgingly. In this article, I share my top 12 tips for improving your networking experience.
- Be aware of your non-verbal signals: ensure your body language, eye contact and handshake are all making you approachable.
- Dress to impress. First impressions matter, make the extra effort.
- Research the event. Make sure it’s the right event for you: is it industry specific? Which companies will be there? Who will be there: support staff; mid-level managers; CEOs?
- Be prepared. Before you head to your event investigate who else is going to be there. Knowing this ahead of time allows you to turn a cold lead into a warmer one by connecting with them on social media before the event.
- Know what to expect. Double-check the event information: will there be a speaker; what are the start and end times; will you have the chance to pitch?
- Calm your nerves. If walking into a room of strangers makes you nervous (which is, by the way, totally normal), then use this little trick: before you go into the room, consciously stand a little straighter, pull your shoulders back and put a smile on your face. Doing even one of these things will send an outward signal that you are confident, that in turn tricks your brain into believing it.
- Wear your name badge. They can be ugly and awkward but they are also useful.
- Acknowledge your host. Find the person who invited you, or the event organiser, to say hello and thank them for the event.
- Don’t talk with your mouth full. Eat before you go or wait until after the event – canapes and conversation don’t mix well.
- Be attentive. Give everyone you speak to your full attention, you never know where a conversation will go, and if you don’t give it a chance, you never will.
- Take the pressure off yourself. Treat those short conversations as ‘tasters’ rather than the whole meal. You don’t have to cram everything into one five-minute chat. If you’re enjoying the conversation, then that’s the perfect opportunity to suggest meeting again.
- Follow-up within 48 hours. Sending timely follow-ups is a great way to keep the conversation going. Most people don’t bother, so you’ll instantly mark yourself out as different, just from this simple action.
And lastly, keep in mind that all our interactions have the potential to create a relationship with another person, and after all, where would we be without relationships? Relationships – romantic, family, friend, business; long, short or in between – form the cornerstone of life.
How we create and foster these relationships directly affects how we get along at home, at work and in our careers.