I’ll be honest, networking is a bit like speed dating. It may go really well, or it could be a complete disaster.
I’ve been to my fair share of events in my career, from having my own business to working for companies. I’ve learned to master the concept of networking with several tips and tricks that have proven to work with an almost 100% closing rate.
The following 5 tips I will share have helped me work a room both successfully and comfortably, while fostering various meaningful and long-lasting relationships.
HAVE A PURPOSE
Before you walk into any networking event, you should always know (in the back of your mind) why you are attending this particular event.
Is it to promote your business? Make friends? Find people in your industry or expertise to connect with? Time is precious, so you want to make sure you spend it wisely.
Being prepared for anything you do in life will set you up for success in the long-run, even if it’s just a basic networking event to pass your time. Once you figure out your style of networking, you can then keep improving your approach and touch points with people.
Believe it or not, smiling not only makes a positive first impression, but it helps people connect with you. Especially in a room full of strangers and unfamiliar faces.
When you’re networking, it’s easy to jump from person to person and one conversation to another. The power of a smile will go a long way in fostering a potential relationship(s) with the people you meet.
Smiling is also a way to break the ice because when a smile is reciprocated, it usually means from the other person that coast is clear to approach or talk.
As Max Eastman said, “A smile is the universal welcome.” All smiles aside, I’m always a big advocate of smiling because you truly want to or have a reason to smile. That way, you will be sure to attract individuals who resonate with your energy level or vibration.
Sometimes it helps to do a quick scan of the room before you start any conversation. You can usually spot the different personalities in the room by observing body language and hand movements.
QUANTITY OVER QUALITY
Ask yourself: do you want to meet as many people possible or do you want to find those you can turn into another separate conversation post-event? Knowing the right questions to ask when getting to know someone is a skill. I find that practice makes perfect, so keep those conversations going (even if you feel super uncomfortable).
Try to let the other person talk about himself/herself before telling others about your story. People want to feel that you are genuinely interested in them, so it helps a lot to listen rather than speaking.
After all, I find that using this strategy gives you a huge advantage as you can buy time to internalize the information. You can read the other person’s body language, observe tone of voice, and decide whether or not to continue the conversation or move on to the next.
BE READY WITH YOUR 30-SECOND ELEVATOR SPEECH
Knowing how to present yourself to a complete stranger is an essential skill for a networking event, but also in life. Often times, how you introduce yourself sets the tone for where the conversation will go. It will determine whether the conversation will be very surface level or whether it will be extended to another coffee chat or lunch meeting after the event.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to relationships. People will remember you if you can relate to them. And people love to resonate with others who share the same interests and passions. Be prepared to tell people who you are and what you are about in 30 seconds. When you can do this effectively, you won’t feel like you wasted time at another of these “boring” networking events.
Networking events can be intimidating, awkward, and loaded with pressure, but it really doesn’t have to be!
When I walk into a networking event, yes I have a purpose, but at the end of the day, it’s important not to fill your head with expectations. Allow yourself to relax, walk in confidently, put your best foot forward, and be as genuine as you can be.
People can always pick up on desperation and self-serving interests. I find it helpful to ask questions, be humble, and start every conversation hoping to learn. Instead of asking people for favors, adopt the mindset of “How can I help?”
This will serve you well in the long-run because the whole purpose of networking is to build connections and develop relationships that take you further than the very first event where rapport and eye contact is established.
When it comes to networking, I feel like a mission has been accomplished when I can follow-up with 1-3 individuals post-event. Taking a conversation from one event to offline is extremely powerful.
Let me tell you a story: Two years ago, my friend launched his documentary and I was invited to the VIP reception before the show. Walking into the room, I didn’t know anyone until I caught the eyes of one of my mentors. We talked and caught up briefly, but mid-way, my mentor got all peppy and exclaimed that he wanted to meet someone in the room. That person turned out to be the Co-Founder of Rotten Tomatoes. I didn’t pay much attention, but we both inched our way to sneaking a conversation with him.
Funny enough, I ended up talking to the Rotten Tomatoes Co-Founder, and we found commonalities which led to a coffee chat the following week. Since that moment, he has become one of my mentors, inspiring me to take a much-needed New York trip which led to working in the beauty industry at Sephora’s corporate office, networking at a private club in San Francisco, and launching a lifestyle blog!
So, the moral of the story: You never know who you will meet at networking events, but make sure you keep an open mind and be your most authentic self at all times.
It’s helped me meet some amazing people in my journey! Are you ready to go networking? Ask me any questions in the comments below.