Networking goes hand-in-hand with running a successful business. That being said many of us dread walking into a room and introducing ourselves to a whole bunch of strangers. Here are eight hot tips that will turn you into a master networker:
ARRIVE ON TIME
Resist the urge to arrive late. Showing up early at a networking event is a much smarter strategy than arriving when the event is in full swing. As one of the first to arrive you will notice that the atmosphere is calmer and quieter – and people won’t have settled into groups yet.
- Don’t hang around the edges of the room, waiting for someone to approach you. To get a conversation started, simply walk up to a person or a group, and ask if you may join them – or ask them what brings them to the event.
NEVER RUSH INTO THE ROOM
Rushing into a networking event does not make a good impression – it could come across as if you’re a bit frazzled and out of control of your day. Smile before you enter the room and you will come across as warm and inviting to others.
- Take your time in making an entrance – it is your first opportunity to make a good impression. It does help if there is a registration desk to navigate first, otherwise walk into the room and move to the right so that you are not blocking the entrance. Pause there for a couple of minutes – or head over to where the drinks are being served to get a drink.
DRESS APPROPRIATELY AND BE WELL GROOMED
The dress code for networking is pretty simple: Wear whatever you wear for your business. That being said people in some industries tend to dress very casually and, like it or not, it does not make a good impression. If necessary dress more smartly than what you see professionals in your business wearing.
- Be well groomed. The Oxford Dictionary definition of well-groomed is, ‘Clean, tidy, and smart’ Appearing smart and well groomed helps you to come across as well organised.
MAKE A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION WITH BODY LANGUAGE
Networking is about making powerful first impression and much of our communication with others is non-verbal – starting from the fact that it will take someone 7 seconds from first clapping eyes on you to make a judgement call.
- Communicate your engagement with positive body language. Plant both feet firmly and slightly apart in a confident and engaged stance. Point your feet towards someone when you are networking with them – it sends a very positive signal on a subliminal level. Look the person in the eyes – do not gaze over their head or look past them. Darting eye movements give the signal that you are distracted and don’t really want to talk to them. Do not cross your arms in defensive fashion. Nod your head to signal your interest in what is being said.
KNOW HOW TO MAKE AND RECEIVE INTRODUCTIONS
A good way to strengthen your networking is to make an introduction between two people who would benefit from knowing each other. If you want to introduce people to each other, then it’s important to get the timing right. You should avoid introducing someone to people who are in the middle of a serious conversation.
- If you find yourself in conversation with two people who don’t know each other, try to introduce them as soon as possible. Figure out which person of the two has a higher rank or authority in a social setting. This is important to know because the person of lesser rank or authority should always be presented to the person of higher rank or authority.
COME PREPARED WITH A WELL PUT-TOGETHER SELF-INTRODUCTION
Much like a CV’s covering letter, your networking introduction should be tailored to the situation. For example you are likely to use a slightly different introduction when circulating within a referral marketing group than when connecting with a fellow practitioner at an industry conference.
- Simply taking a few minutes to develop a networking introduction prior to a networking opportunity can help you feel more prepared, communicate more clearly, and network more effectively.
MASTER THE ART OF SMALL TALK
Small talk is designed to give people a chance to network, and create a bridge to conversations about opportunities. Small talk puts people at ease, drawing them into conversation, and creating a comfort zone from which you can build a relationship
- Don’t hijack the conversation. Rather be a conversationalist than a talker. Some people who feel uncomfortable networking may overcompensate by dominating the conversation. The most successful networkers are good at making other people feel special. Look people in the eye, repeat their name, listen to what they have to say, and suggest topics that are easy to discuss.
KNOW HOW TO GRACEFULLY ENTER AND EXIT CONVERSATIONS
The feeling of being trapped in a conversation one wants to step away from is a fairly common problem. Fortunately there are a number of ways you can politely exit the conversation. The simplest way is just to politely excuse yourself. You don’t need to give a reason. If you feel you must create one, simply head in the direction of the rest room.
If you are talking to one person and don’t want to leave him or her alone and stranded, you could walk them over and introduce them to others. When their conversation is engaged, you can politely excuse yourself.