I had two lively discussions this week with a client and a board member about networking techniques. We spoke about ways you can ensure that you’re connecting and techniques you can use when you’re not. We all know we should carry business cards and have a crisp value proposition ready, but if you’re not fully present, you may have a hard time building a relationship.
Check out my tips to ensure you don’t miss the mark.
Be who you are today.
The most important lesson I’ve learned networking over the years is to be real. Be who you are on this day. There’s no need to put on your networking persona to impress anyone. Being authentically you is the key to being present.
I used to try to pull myself up to meet the energy of the room, but I found this made me feel disconnected and inauthentic. If I’m having a bad day, I allow myself to honor it and let it be.
Temp the room.
Arriving early is always a great way to meet people. Introduce yourself to the event planner. Ask them who would be good for you to know, and get a lay of the land. It’s also nice to be a friendly face for others as they arrive. Arriving promptly is one of the easiest ways to have a nice time networking.
Perhaps you arrive a little later, and deep conversations are underway. Don’t despair; one of my go-tos is to head to the bar and get a soda water, or get some food. Both of these spots allow you the opportunity to break the ice with someone. You can also look for a physical opening, like someone looking around or an empty spot in a circle calling your name.
An expert social connector here in Boston also advised me to leave on time. As someone who enjoys deep conversation, this was a solid learning moment. When the event is winding down, it’s likely those who planned the event are ready to go. Be polite, and take that powerful conversation you’re having to the next step.
Be in your body.
Everyone loves someone who is easy to talk to. The key to this is being comfortable in your own skin. We can psych ourselves out if we’re new to the community, have social anxiety or tend to be introverted, which can all send the wrong impression. When you need to get out of your own head, there’s nothing faster to ground yourself than becoming conscious of your breath.
To drop out of your head and into your body, take two or three calming breaths, release your shoulders and shift your focus to how you feel in your body. Are you restricted in any way? Uncross your arms, spread your shoulders and relax, and your body will actually lead you out of the stress. You’ll walk differently, sound different and come off as approachable. Others will respond in kind to this.
Intend on an outcome.
Taking a moment to point out what you’d like to achieve gives your mind something to do with the excess energy social events can cause and focuses your attention toward success. Give yourself some positive momentum, including statements like “I plan to have a great night,” “I will likely connect with the best people in the room,” “Those I am meant to meet will come to me,” and “I will make a lifelong alliance tonight.” Planning for success will help you create it.
Keep it cool.
I see this with those who are either new to networking or tend to be overzealous about their product or service. All fine places to be, but what we want to do is to temper our enthusiasm to match those we are communicating with. Being overly excited about what you bring to the table is the equivalent of using a megaphone in a small space when a quiet tone would have worked just fine. At best, your audience forgives you for not picking up on the tone of the room; at worst, you’ve lost the opportunity to make a connection. No one wants to be run over.
Ask awesome questions.
If you’re stuck in a stale conversation or are simply interested in being a better conversationalist, try livening things by asking better questions. Avoid questions that will elicit one-word answers, like, “Do you work near here?” Try asking open-ended questions, like, “What did you learn today?” or “What would make this event really great for you?” You’ll elevate the quality of your conversation by inspiring them to think creatively, and they’ll enjoy answering your thoughtful questions.
What do you suggest for empowered and authentic networking?