Today, we’re talking networking in ten. No, not ten minutes, ten steps. I’ll say that there is no one right way to network, but there are definitely some wrongs, so I can’t use that cliché phrase here. Let’s get into it!
- Do Your Research: If you are attending an event and you know who the attendees/ speakers will be, do a little research to familiarize yourself with people you may not know. This will lend you a point of reference when speak with them, and they will more than likely remember that you had a breadth of knowledge about a particular subject, or them (their work, experiences, etc.)
- Come Prepared: As mentioned in one of our previous posts, come prepared with your personal marketing materials (business cards, portfolio, pen, etc.) so you have something to exchange with the people you meet them.
- Wear a Smile: There is nothing more uninviting than and uninviting frown, or lack of smile. In many instances, people don’t even realize what their facial expressions are signaling to others, but you have to be careful not to give off the wrong messages without even saying anything. I do this often, so it is a constant effort to make sure my face is saying, “Hi, I’d love to meet you”, instead of “please don’t come over here”.
- Introduce with Confidence: Once, someone asked who I was and I replied, “Oh, I’m just a student from Philadelphia…”. WHAT?!…No, that is unacceptable. I’m so glad that my professionalism has grown since that day three years ago. You should definitely have a clear and concise introduction of who you are and what you do; ultimately that’s what people want to know.
- Listen: Sometimes when we’re nervous about meeting new people, or are actually in a conversation and don’t know what to say to keep the flow going, we tend to think about what we are going to say next instead of listen. People can tell when you aren’t genuinely listening to them (I know I can), and it’s a major turn-off. Just listen intently, and respond accordingly. Be natural, and be yourself.
- Just Go For It: It’s intimidating to start a conversation with a complete stranger for some, but it’s actually not as hard as it seems. Now, as I’m giving you this advice, I’m speaking to myself too! The rule of thumb is to just start with a simple hello and a smile. Normally, the other person will say something that will incur a response from you, but if not, just play on the social norms around you. What is the mood of the event? What is the overarching topic that has you all in the same place at the same time? What is happening around you? Use that as a starting point to bait the 1st topic of your conversation. I assure you, others are just as nervous as you are, so approaching a new conversation with small talk is sometimes the best way to go.
- Don’t Be Greedy: No, we don’t do it intentionally, but for some it happens more often than not. “Convo hoggers” are those people who somehow talk so much that you can’t get a word in, or they steer the discussion back to them every chance they get. Be fair, listen to others, and remember it’s not all about you. Everyone has equal value.
- I Am Not My Business Card: Well, you kind of are, but don’t let “Here’s my card” be the only words you say to someone. It’s so common, and I’ve done it before, so don’t give me that look! Have the conversation, even if it’s brief. Give them the opportunity to ask for you information or vice versa. And when they do, whip out your fabulous business card with a smile 😉
- Take Notes: At some events, as you probably know, you will meet many people. After a while it can become difficult to remember the faces attached to the business cards in your hand. One very clever trick I’ve seen many networking vets do is jot down descriptive notes on the back of people’s business cards. Things like what the person is wearing, the topic of the conversation they had, or anything else that will allow them to remember the person when they refer back to the business card later.
- Follow Up: This is the most important step of networking that occurs after it has already taken place. Many times we meet amazing people, collect dozens of business cards, and it ends there. The rule is that you should contact them within a week of meeting them, because frankly, it’s possible they will have a harder time remembering you beyond that point if you don’t reach out, or vice versa. The saying, “The fortune is in the follow-up” is the epitome of truth, seriously. That’s where those deeper connections are made, where the serious people are weeded out from those who just like “meeting people”.
Wishing you luck on your networking journey! It’s rough at first for introverted people (like myself, even though people don’t believe I’m shy or introverted), but it gets better as you get the hang of it! Email me with any additional questions you have, or if you want to hear any horror or success stories as it relates to networking. I have a slew of both!
Her Brand DNA