The benefits of expanding your professional and personal network are uncapped, yet doing the heavy lifting of actually participating in these networking events can sometimes come with hesitation. Not everyone is a thriving extrovert when navigating large groups of strangers, so it’s understandable if you aren’t overly stoked to attend them.
Even though we’ve entered 2020, there’s still no shortcut to going out and making genuine connections whilst promoting your own company/services. Unless you did a poor job of researching the proper networking event for you, you’ll rarely ever regret showing up and just doing it.
Using these pro-tips for networking, you will not only be glad you went, but you’ll also leave your next event with more than you bargained for.
The number one thing on everyone’s mind is how can I be memorable amongst a crowd of people who are also gunning for meaningful connections? It’s a lot more simple than it seems, yet we complicate networking events and put pressure on ourselves to say the right thing, give out our business card to as many people as possible, etc, etc.
The word I like to focus on when heading to a network event is genuine.
Genuine connections, genuine conversations, genuine personality.
It goes without saying, if you show up and be yourself, you will be more comfortable than you would be if you were trying to be someone you’re not. If you’re comfortable, you will likely make the strangers you are talking to comfortable, which will lead to genuine connections.
We’ve all shown up to an event alone, in an unfamiliar place, in a sea of unfamiliar faces, wondering where to start. You might start out in the corner to get a better look at the crowd to decide where to go next, where you might feel less awkward. Or, you might head straight for the bar in an effort to decide what to do with your hands while you contemplate making human contact with your first person. More than likely, everyone else is feeling the same way, and will likely be relieved when you’re the one to start the conversation off with them.
A question on your mind might be, “what are some good talking points?” Or, “what are some good conversation starters?” Again, the goal is to be genuinely interested, which you can do with questions that you actually want the answers to.
How did you first get involved in your industry/company?
What kinds of projects are you working on right now?
What brings you here?
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
How could I potentially help you?/How could we potentially partner in the future?
Listening skills are highly underrated these days and are seldom taught.
Listening is the key to making a good first impression.
You will have plenty of time to rattle off what you do for a living and what your company is all about, so you should first focus on being genuinely interested in what others have to say.
There’s that word again–genuine.
Now that you have a list of questions you plan on asking, it’s time to internalize and respond accordingly. If the person you are talking to genuinely believes you are interested and are listening, they will feel valued and take you seriously.
Ask follow up questions to their answers and have them clarify or elaborate on anything you want to know more about.
Make them feel like an expert in their field.
In How to win friends and influence people, Dale Carnegie writes, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
Not only will you boost the ego of who you’re meeting and make them feel important, but you’re also going to learn how you can add value to their life. Listen in for potential problems that they might have so you know if you have the solution, or know someone that does. This sounds much more fruitful than thinking about the next thing you’re going to say, doesn’t it?
Besides coming prepared with your business cards and sharp attire, another important piece to come ready with is your elevator pitch.
If you already have an elevator pitch, try it out for size with a fresh pair of ears to make sure it’s short and sweet enough. This is your opportunity to make an impression on the person you’re speaking to and you want it to be memorable.
Be in proper order.
Have a unique attention grabber/conversation starter.
Quickly and simply summarize what you do.
The last thing you want to do is bore the person you just met by offering up irrelevant details about what you do, especially when you’re already competing for a spot in their memory log. If you properly execute on your elevator pitch, you can make a lasting impression and kick off the start of a new connection. So yes, it is important that this is locked and loaded.
According to Glassdoor.com, taking preparation a step further includes researching who will be at the event and assembling questions you want to ask them. Knowing your audience and how you might want to approach them can also help calm your nerves before arriving.
No matter how thrilled (or not thrilled) you are to attend your next networking event, keep in mind that your energy will directly affect the experience you have. If you appear to be having a good time and your energy is high, people will naturally gravitate towards you and feed off of that energy. This includes your body language and your smile.
For an even better response, a Smize (a smile with your eyes).
Your smile should literally be a part of your outfit. Your goal is to be as approachable as possible and be the person you would want to network with. Entrepreneur says, you want to come off as more “interested” than “interesting.”
Giving out your business card and collecting them should be common sense if you plan on making the networking event tangible. The next business day is a great time to send follow up emails from the cards you collected from connections made. Now, you have a second opportunity to connect even further by mentioning something you spoke to them about. If you found a potential way of helping this particular connection, a follow-up email is the perfect way to move the ball forward. Follow up emails are a great way to schedule another coffee date or your next business meeting.
All in all, networking can be fun and valuable, especially when you get good at it. They can help you build confidence, grow your network, and even advance your career. Be your authentic self, get your smize ready, and you can’t lose!If you’re interested in trying out these tips at local networking event, be sure to check out our networking series Eureka Collab here in Phoenix!