Networking is hard.
I mean who on earth actually enjoys pacing around a room, approaching strangers whilst trying to sell themselves? (Other than perhaps some salespeople…)
I don’t mind admitting that in the past, I’ve found myself attempting to look busy in a bid to avoid the inevitable meet and greet, purposefully pacing around as if I’m looking for someone/ something.
Over the years, attending such events has become easier and easier – and I almost enjoy them now.
So to ease some of the pain - here are my top 10 tips on how to survive your next networking event…
1. Work on your handshake.
Have you ever shaken hands with someone who actually caused you pain with their tight grip?
Or someone who’s loose grasp felt like a cold, dead, wet fish?
(If not –you could be the culprit…)
A bad handshake can make one hell of a bad impression and when people are nervous they do tend to go either way (too hard or too soft).
You don’t want to come across weak and uncomfortable or overconfident and intimidating.
Practice with someone; make your handshake perfect (and memorable).
2. Watch your body language.
Don't forget to keep your body language in check - throughout the entire event.
(Often as people get more tired, they're body language starts to suffer).
- If you look too chilled out, you might come across as bored, impolite and nonchalant, which might irritate others, causing them to avoid you.
- But if you look too nervous, you could also get avoided; people often find it difficult to keep up a conversation with someone agitated.
Make sure your body language is consistently confident, strong and friendly, without coming across too relaxed or bored by the situation.
For more tips on maintaining strong, polite body language, click here!
3. Get there early.
If you’re attending a networking event with the rest of your company, then it’s unlikely that you’ll have a choice about when you show up – but if you do, try to get an early head-start!
- There won’t be as many people around, so the environment will be a lot less intimidating.
- A lot of the other early-birds might be shy too (and thinking the same thing as you).
- It gives you a chance to ease yourself into the situation – and get a good spot. (I recommend somewhere near the bar; people will be more relaxed and less formal).
Hopefully as the day goes on, you’ll gain confidence, but if not, you can always head home when it gets too busy!
4. Practice your “Elevator Pitch.”
If you randomly got into a lift with an ideal client, how would you introduce yourself? Bearing in mind you have about 90 seconds to do so?
You need to mention…
- Your company.
- Your clients.
- What the heck you do.
- Why you’re so good at it.
- What your future goals are.
So basically your USP! (Or your company’s USP).
This is how you should introduce yourself at networking events too.
Heads up - you need to really WOW people at this point or, at such a busy event, you’ll get lost in the crowd. Practice makes perfect so test it out on friends and family.
For more tips on crafting a great elevator pitch, click here.
5. Be yourself.
We wrote a blog post the other day, all about the importance of being yourself in job interviews – and the same is true of networking events.
Some people over-practice, panic and end up coming across quite robotic, or even over-confident.
Be human and be friendly – people want to know that they’re talking to someone just like them, who they can build a (working) relationship with and who isn’t irritating and arrogant.
Would you work with someone you didn’t like?
6. Don’t waffle.
Like any other social event, try not to ramble too much without giving others a chance to speak.
(Easier said than done when you’re nervous, I know).
If you find yourself talking substantially more than the other person then stop, take a breath and ask them a question about themselves.
Just be conversationally and try to enjoy yourself – it doesn’t all have to be about work…
7. You can talk about different things.
You don’t have to spend the entire day talking about work – if a conversation progresses onto a more fun/ personal topic then that’s fine.
This is a sign that you and that person are bonding and they’re much more likely to remember you.
Obviously there is a line you shouldn't cross - don’t start spilling your deepest darkest secrets – but discussing the latest Batman film is a perfectly acceptable (in fact advisable) topic of conversation…
8. Make notes.
After you’ve met a valuable acquaintance, jot some notes down about them, what they do and roughly the kind of conversation you had – this will help for future communication.
You can end up picking up a lot of business cards at these events and it’s not easy to remember everyone. (Hence why you need to stand out too)!
Not knowing or remembering the person you’re trying to contact after the event just makes it that little bit more nerve-wracking!
Warning: I wouldn’t make notes in front of your new acquaintance as that might come across a little strange… find a quiet place and/or casually enter details into your phone after you've finished chatting.
9. Follow up with your connections.
Now, because you made some valuable notes during the event, this step is going to be a lot easier!
I would recommend connecting with people on LinkedIn (for future reference) as well as popping across an email to follow up on any queries or conversations you might have had.
If they’ve asked for some specific information, then follow-up should be pretty easy, but if not, look back over your notes and try to find something useful you could send across with your thank you email. An article, eBook or blog on something you discussed could do the trick.
If they get back to you, be sure to keep in touch and even arrange to meet up!
10. Give and take.
Don’t expect your new connection to give you the world without anything in return.
This is the beginning of a brand new, mutually beneficial relationship and you must treat it as such – else you’ll lose them altogether
Consider sharing resources, advice, customers and other contacts if necessary.
People will always be thinking about the ‘what’s in it for me’ factor – nothing comes for free in business, you know.
Ready to network?
I know, even with all the tips in the world, networking is still a daunting task for many of us – do you still feel like hiding in a corner?
Recruiter Pro Tip The following resources might help you power through that fear…
- 3 Easy Ways to Make Yourself Look More Confident.
- 8 Ways to Be a More Confident Person.
- Are you an Introvert Like Me? Here's How to Overcome Networking Anxiety.
And if not, perhaps face to face networking isn't the right thing for you? Could you use social media instead?
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Good luck networking.