Even after years of attending events, networking feels awkward and uncomfortable. It might never be comfortable, but you can learn how to be great at it.
Adopt an attitude of ‘I like you’ — don’t worry about whether or not others are going to like you. Instead, shift your focus from yourself to others.
Dress to Impress
Everyone you meet is likely to remember how they felt about you after their first interaction with you, regardless of if they remember the exact event. This doesn’t mean putting on your nicest suit, but definitely make sure you aren’t rocking any stains from that morning’s coffee.
Get a Wingman
Sales is VERY similar to dating. Cold introductions can be difficult and awkward. But, once you start getting to know other people and going to the same events as them, you can start introducing them to others they would benefit by knowing. In turn, they’ll start to do the same for you.
If an event has name tags out, wear them! Networking events can be loud and names are easy to mix up (and forget). Seeing your name and business when someone first meets you will help them to remember you, more than getting a business card at the end of the night.
It’s best to wear your name tag on the left side so when you go to shake someone’s hand for the first time it is still visible.
Bring Business Cards
Handing someone a business card at the end of your conversation is a great way to ask for a follow-up and ensure you can connect after the event. No matter how much of an impression you make, there’s a very small chance someone will remember your company AND your full name.
Don’t Bring Marketing Material
Business cards are great to connect with people, but marketing material is just a sales gimmick.
Genuinely Ask About Others
At networking events, most people are in sales and want to promote their business. Instead of jumping right into what you do or sell, start by asking about the other person (don’t interrogate), find something in common to talk about, be in the moment, and pay attention (don’t think about what you will say next)!
Share equal airtime — offer an interesting tidbit of information about yourself (if they are interested, they will ask for more); don’t forget this is an art of give and take (remember to hand over the baton).
Psychology is a huge part of business. Standing with your arms crossed and looking uninterested will make you seem unapproachable. Keep your stance and expression open and friendly.
If you are having a conversation with a group of people, don’t close your circle off. By standing next to other people, others will feel more comfortable joining your conversation. Overall, be friendly and don’t be clique-y!
If there are “gimmicks” like office volleyball, participate! You might feel a little silly, but this is a great way to connect with people — helps to remove business — and it shows you aren’t stuck up!
A classic cliché that holds truth. Most people can see through a fake and you’re networking with other people, so just try to genuinely connect!
This is a great opportunity to talk about what you do in your free time (outside of work) and can help you find common ground with others.