Networking gives you the opportunity to make important connections, get leads and referrals, learn more about your industry and competitors, and make a name for yourself in your field. Despite this, the idea of attending one of these events may strike fear in your heart. Don’t worry–with a few simple tips, networking is a breeze.
Here are 5 tips for surviving your next networking event:
A smile can go a long way in any type of social situation, but certainly when you’re networking. First impressions mean everything, and people develop favorable opinions of those who appear friendly and approachable.
Likewise, people are more likely to come over and introduce themselves if you have a smile on your face. Lastly, smiling boosts your confidence and helps you feel ready to reach out to others at networking events.
This doesn’t mean you have to plaster a goofy smile on your face the entire time. It just means you should make an effort to smile often.
Recognize the Value in Every Meeting
Let’s say you go to a networking event, hoping to rub elbows with potential clients. At some point during the event, you become embroiled (stuck) in conversation with someone you see as unlikely to hire you, such as a person in a different industry or even a competitor.
Don’t dismiss that connection as useless. You never know how or when just such a connection will help you. That person could become a source of referrals or even insight into a new market. Make an effort to be friendly and interested in everyone.
Be Interested and Interesting
No one likes talking to someone who drones on about himself, even if it is a networking event. So listen! When you are talking with someone, give him your full attention, ask questions, and provide genuine comments. Don’t spend the whole conversation scanning the room for your next connection. People can see right through that. And when you’re speaking? Smile; give complete, descriptive answers (don’t stop at yes or no); and let your passion for your business/industry show, without getting carried away.
Pretend you are talking with a new friend rather than a stranger. If you are skilled at telling jokes, crack one or two. Laughter puts just about anyone at ease.
Many networking events have free drinks, and sometimes there are alcoholic beverages to enjoy. If you get nervous in social situations, your first thought may be to have a few drinks to loosen up. Don’t. Stick with one drink—maybe two if you have a high tolerance for alcohol.
You want to keep your voice clear and your mind sharp at these events. Drinking increases the chance that you will make a fool of yourself.
Ask the Right Questions
Yes, networking is about more than just passing out business cards. One of the biggest mistakes people make at networking events is asking the wrong types of questions. If you ask questions that people can answer with a simple yes or no, you’ll find it much harder to get a conversation started and keep it going.
Instead, ask open-ended questions that give the person you’ve met something to sink her teeth into. For example, ask “What do you mean by__________?” or Why do you think ___________?”
Use the above tips to make your networking a success, but keep in mind that practice makes perfect. The more networking events you attend, the more at ease you will eventually feel.