To some networking is a natural part of their personality, while for others it is a daunting and sweat-inducing prospect. In essence, networking is a little like business flirting, as you have a short time to make an impression and you want to make people like you.
However as someone who has never been any good at the latter, here is some advice to bear in mind for your next business social event that may boost your confidence a little and help you secure new business or contacts:
The three Cs
Networking is a matter of confidence, courage and charm. Yet, like beauty, these concepts can appear very differently in the eye of the beholder. When uncomfortable we often act unnaturally, which usually only serves to make the situation worse.
Relax, breath and, yes, have a little wine. If you are to work with people in the long-term, then they are going to need to buy into you, so be yourself and show who you really are. Besides, an uber-confident, brash and arrogant person is usually a much bigger turn-off than a shy, retiring and intriguing individual.
A little research goes a long way…
If you are attending an event with the sole purpose of making contact with a particular prospective client, make sure you know who you’re looking for.
Just 10 minutes of quick online research can make you feel much more confident about an event and help you a more efficient networker. Know the faces, a little background biography and perhaps a few favourite facts. But be careful, you don’t want to be a stalker…
Keeping abreast of the main news agenda and that of prospective clients’ industries is also invaluable and helps to keep the conversation flowing.
Stop, look and listen
It is easy to get intimidated by large networking events, as the opportunity to strike up a meaningful conversation can quickly become lost in the din of the room.
Keep an eye out for opportunities to join a group or steal a bored-looking person from a conversation. Pay attention to their outfits for an ‘in’, take in the atmosphere and the surroundings to have a fall-back talking points, and, most importantly, listen to what they have to say.
You can learn so much by just taking the time to listen.
The power of the business card
Networking events are all about circulating. Making a connection is key, but you want to try and make as many as possible.
Don’t be afraid to make an excuse and move on. However, try to get a business card before doing so and offer yours – you can always continue the conversation via email or over a drink at a later stage.
This is also a great technique if you are naturally shy. Contact via email and set up a one-to-one in the next few days to get a better focus and really sell yourself and the business.
Just like you
I am sure that we have all felt rather isolated at one event or another, even when engaged in a group conversation. Just remember that everyone at the event is like you – they have all been sent there to do the same activity as you and, really, everyone is thirsty for the free wine.
Enjoy yourself, it will show and really will help the conversation to flow.