How to Become a Natural at Networking
Do you enjoy walking into a room full of people you don’t know and starting conversations? Networking, or what I like to refer to as relationship building, is an essential part of business success. Many people avoid this activity because it makes them feel awkward and uncomfortable. If you want to grow your business or uncover new career opportunities, networking is a must. People want to do business with people they know, like and trust.
How people perceive you upon meeting you for the first time is a key factor in developing successful working relationships. It takes just a few seconds for someone to form a first impression of you. People are drawn to confidence and credibility, so the ability to develop meaningful conversation in a short period of time is important. The impression you make needs to be strong in person and online. You want to make sure the impression you give is a positive one. Follow my tips below and you’ll be a networking natural in no time.
Exude confident body language. Approachability is an essential skill in networking. Smile, extend your hand for a handshake, state your name clearly and maintain an open stance. Welcome others into your conversation if you are talking with a small group of people.
If you are talking one-on-one, make that person feel like they are the most important person in the room. Demonstrate strong listening skills by maintaining good eye contact, nodding periodically and not thinking about what you are going to say next. Focus on what they are saying. Leave your Iphone in your pocket.
Think of ways that you can help the people you meet with their business or career goals before asking for something in return.
Look the part of a confident and credible professional. Don’t look like you decided to drop in to the event last minute. Wear an outfit that reflects what you do. If you are a designer, go for a look that is interesting and stylish, but not too wacky. If you are a financial planner, your look needs to reflect quality. Your image speaks volumes.
Always review your online presence and make sure you are communicating the story you intend. The people you meet may Google you after an event if they are interested in developing a business relationship.
If you plan on following up with new contacts through LinkedIn, make sure you write a personalized message indicating where you met them and why you think it would be beneficial for the two of you to connect. Your professional network is a tool to help you move your business or your career forward. It is not a popularity contest.
Don’t try to talk to everyone in the room, meet with enough people you feel you can have a meaningful conversation with and have time to follow up. It’s better to leave a networking event with three strong contacts than 10 mediocre ones.