You already know networking can be highly beneficial to your business; we don’t have to tell you that.
But we can offer a first-hand example of this – most of the people we work with at AARE were originally connections we made at REIA events. So, it’s surprising that people don’t always jump at the opportunity to attend a networking event, when it can be a huge business-boosting tactic. Instead, networking is sometimes dreaded because of the chance it can feel awkward, frustrating, and ambiguous. We get it; you’re not crazy about the risk of possible social torture. But there are plenty of approaches to make networking the exact opposite of that. Here are a few ways to ensure an easy and rewarding networking experience.
Find out about their Personality, Not Just Their Job Description
Don’t get hung up on only learning about the other person’s profession and what they can offer. Just because you are technically there “on business,” doesn’t mean you can’t veer from career topics of conversation.
- Find out about the person’s hobbies, history, and family members. Learning that Jay the wholesaler has two sons and likes to play golf will make you appear genuinely interested in building a relationship with him, rather than merely seeming interested in what he can offer professionally.
- Your follow up will sound more thoughtful and therefore get more notice. You’ll be able to ask a specific personal question about how Jay’s son is doing at x school or with x sport rather than just generically asking how his family is.
Be Mindful of Your Body Language
Being nervous is perfectly okay. But letting others see this nervousness is when it becomes a problem. Moreover, you could be presenting negative body language without even realizing it.
- Just smiling and having a look of interest on your face is not the only thing to consider. Princeton University researchers found in a recent study that body language likely has a higher impact than facial expression in how one is portrayed.
- Crossing your arms gives a negative cue to others because it portrays tenseness and restriction.
- Turning your body away from your potential connection can give him the feeling that you aren’t fully interested in what he’s saying and are looking to leave the conversation. But if you are in a small group and want to ensure others can easily join the conversation, standing at a slight angle to your companion can be beneficial in leaving more open space for others.
- A strong handshake with direct eye contact immediately establishes confidence
Carry a Pen and Those Business Cards Help Too…
If you are like most normal humans, your brain can only remember so much. So why risk forgetting that vital company name or website that so interested you?
- Writing down others’ suggestions, will not only help you remember what to look up later. It will also show new acquaintances you’re not just all talk and actually plan to use their advice.
- You’ll look prepared and organized. Instead of simply referencing that recommended program for email marketing, take out your business card and write down the name of it while you’re talking to the new colleague. It will show them that you’re genuinely interested in helping and will give them a way to remember you.
- Your follow up process will be ten times easier. After chatting with someone, write down something unique about them on their business card. Later on, when you’re going through a huge pile of cards, you’ll be able to put a face to each name.
Come Prepared but Don’t Sound Rehearsed
Sometimes the biggest problem that people encounter when networking is one that they’ve created for themselves. Over-preparing or overthinking.
- Stop. Don’t think of that networking event as the ultimate test of your career choice or aptitude at your job. The more comfortable you make yourself with the idea of the event, the more comfortable you will be, and therefore the more successful at it.
- Don’t memorize every possible topic you want to learn or goal you hope to achieve at the event. Yes, have some in mind but the world is not going to end, if you forget to mention that one project you’re particularly proud of in your conversation. Sounding rehearsed may make you appear as if you don’t actually know what you’re saying, you just remembered to say it. Having general points prepared in mind, but not rehearsed, will allow you to incorporate them into the conversation in a natural way that will make you sound credible and genuine.
- Don’t underestimate yourself. If you’re comfortable in your field, you probably already know most of the knowledge you have to offer. But getting up to date on the current news and what’s trending in your industry doesn’t hurt. Seem informed, by being informed.
Know How to Move On, Conversationally and Physically
You may be tempted to keep continuing the conversation after it starts to dwindle down. But if you’re wasting time on endless small talk it could be preventing you from meeting another valuable connection. Make sure to balance quality and quantity.
- Subtly let someone know you want to continue meeting others at the event. Hubspot’s article, “How to Master Non-Awkward, Effective In-Person Networking,” offers good ways to kindly end a conversation. They suggest asking the other person “Have you seen anyone from [company name] tonight? I’ve been meaning to chat with them.”
- If the person is not getting the hint, suggest moving to another group together. This way, you can separate from them by giving you both someone new to connect with in the next group.
- Keep moving throughout the event when not engaged in conversation. Physical movement shows that you’re proactive and aren’t just waiting for others to come to you. Carol Kinsey Goman, a body language writer, explains how being in motion can increase one’s authority. She writes, “the more room you take up, the more you look like you are in command… And if you occupy space by moving around, you will further emphasize your authority.”
These guidelines are pretty simple but can have a big impact. So, you owe it to yourself to try incorporating these techniques into your next networking experience. Be sure to let us know any additional tricks you discover in the process! And, if you’re interested in learning even more about making networking successful, check out the articles we recommend below.
The Perfect Opportunity:
Start practicing these approaches next week at the Black Diamond “Networking After Hours” event in Waltham.
- 7 Tips for Networking
- Networking Success
- Non-Awkward, Effective In-Person Networking
- Networking Tips for Introverts
- Succeed with In-Person Networking