Have you ever felt stressed at the thought of attending networking events, conferences and even holiday parties? Understanding networking fundamentals can help ease the discomfort and make you become a better networker.
Show Up. As Woody Allen says, “80% of success is showing up” and that certainly applies to networking. Even when it’s raining, show up. People who show up during lousy weather are motivated and often more likely to be interested in meeting you and sharing valuable information about themselves.
Be Strategic. Don’t go in cold. Before every event, a male client of mine decides whom he would like to get to know better and plans topics for conversation with each one. When attending dinner events, he approaches his strategic target five minutes before the dinner bell rings, begins a conversation and is often invited to sit near them during dinner. Women are usually less strategic than men when attending events, often looking for friends with whom to reconnect. If there are people you want to meet, consider getting an introduction from someone who knows them. Have professional business cards ready to share.
Enter the Room with Your Head Up and a Smile. Act like you’re confident and ready to have a good time. Fake it until you become it! A smile is not only contagious, it can lift your mood and confidence level. Put away your iPhone, stand up straight, look friendly and extend your hand first so you look eager to connect. Wear your name tag on your right shoulder so it’s easy to see when shaking hands. I always wear my own gold name badge that looks professional, classy and is inscribed “Dr. Susan Murphy.”
Start at the Food Table. Talking and eating go together, so people are more accessible around food. Hold your drink with your left hand so your handshake isn’t cold and wet. Don’t go in hungry and remember your manners.
Engage Others and Help Them Feel Comfortable. If you are nervous, you’re thinking too much about yourself. Break the ice with questions like: “How did you get involved with this organization?” or current events like “Which sport is your favorite?” Stay away from politics, religion and sex. If you don’t know anyone, approach the lone wolves. When you run out of things to discuss, invite them to join you to meet other people. To meet many participants, volunteer to help register guests at the front table.
Connect Others. Provide helpful introductions to others. Become known as someone who is helpful and offers resources. Do what you say you will do and follow through on commitments in order to build trust. Not only does the altruistic approach make you feel great, it is effective in helping others invest in your success.
Follow Up with Leads After the Event. Send a follow-up note or email to people whom you enjoyed meeting and would like to have in your cadre of associates.
Always Network. Treat social events as an opportunity to meet new acquaintances and reinforce old ones. Always be open to expanding your network of people. Diane Darling taught me that networking is a frame of mind and a way of life. It is an investment in YOU.
Now it’s time to practice your new skills, so get going!
Dr. Susan Murphy is a best-selling author, coach & speaker specializing in relationships, conflict, leadership & goal achievement. She co-authored In the Company of Women & LifeQ. www.DrSusanMurphy.com. This article also appeared on Forbes.com.