One of my favorite things to do is to walk into a room full of people I don’t know. When that happens, I see a wealth of opportunity of meeting interesting people, learning new things, broadening my network and making new colleagues and friends. And, I can’t wait to get started!
This eagerness to network, I’ve learned, is not the common feeling among the majority of people. In fact, it is daunting to most, and even downright scary. Fight or flight can kick in. Before you run out of the room, here are some tools for your personal toolkit to help you – whether you are an introvert or an extrovert – these will help you.
The simple act of smiling has many benefits. It relaxes you. It makes you look confident. It makes you look approachable, increasing the chances that someone will come up and talk to you before you have to go out and make that first move.
2. Start the conversation
If you are the one who has to approach someone new, smile, of course, and ask a neutral question or make a neutral comment, such as, “Did you enjoy the speaker?” or “Interesting weather we are having.”
This is key and will make your life easier. Instead of desperately trying to think of the next thing you’ll say, genuinely listen when someone responds to your question. In what they are saying you will find something to respond too – if you are truly listening. After a few minutes of conversing, the interaction will feel natural and easy. You will relax more and enjoy yourself. That’s when your confidence shows and you will learn interesting things about people.
4. Remember names
People commonly say, “I am terrible at remembering names.” Be the person that isn’t so terrible. There are many motivational speakers who all have different “tricks” they teach to help people remember names when they are networking. For me, I find that repeating it when I shake their hand and then making a conscious/thoughtful effort to remember it while talking works best. And, I like to repeat it when I say goodbye. The more I say it, the easier it is to remember. And, when someone new enters your conversation, take that as an opportunity to introduce them to your new acquaintance by name.
5. Have confidence
Every self-help and career building advice column stresses the importance of self-confidence and it’s no different here. People are attracted to confident people and will want to enter your conversation.
6. Fake it
Even if you are intimidated or scared – fake self-confidence – there are many others in the room who are as scared as you. Faking confidence usually turns into genuine confidence after being in a networking situation for several minutes – especially after your first conversation. Other people are not that scary! Think of them as interesting!
7. Follow up
Whether you enjoy networking or not – it is essential. Make it a point to talk to at least three different people; and to stay in the networking environment for at least 30 minutes – otherwise, don’t bother. If you are going to do it right, then you must follow up. Be sure to carry your business cards with you at the networking event, and ask others you interact with for theirs. The next day send a short email to each person whose card you got saying it was nice to meet them.