The thought of walking into a room full of strangers with the intention to impress as many people as possible can strike fear into the heart of even the most experienced business person. Some, however, appear confident and at ease amongst the crowd (lucky!), attracting positive attention and standing out like a peacock strutting among chickens. But whether you love it or you hate it, networking will remain one of the most powerful marketing tactics to accelerate and sustain your success.
Here are some tips to make you less like a chicken and more like a peacock at any networking event.
PICK YOUR OUTFIT WISELY!
Let’s be honest first impressions count for a lot, but networking events differ when it comes to dress code. Some are formal whilst others have no dress code at all. If you’re unsure, it may be useful to try and check if the networking event has a Facebook page and for more information. The most useful piece of advice I can give is to make sure your outfit matches your profile. The key to growth and opportunity at these events is based on building relationships – try and wear something that makes you look trustworthy and professional but, whatever you choose to wear, make sure you feel comfortable and confident.
DON’T GO TO NETWORKING EVENTS WITH FRIENDS!
Yes, yes, we know how tempting it is to bring your friend to a networking event with you. Why wouldn’t we? She always holds a great conversation and makes me feel more comfortable around others! It’s easy to jump into the unknown with a safety net but you’ll spend the entire event talking to people you already know. Try and make a point of going to networking events on your own. Put yourself out of your comfort zone and force yourself to meet new people.
GET IN LINE!
You may or may not have noticed but queuing for something just appears to be a catalyst for conversation. Even if it’s your mutual distaste for queuing! Get in line for something – drink, food or even the bathroom! Use this time in line to ask someone in front or behind you if they are connected to the event or a member. Have a sincere conversation. Be yourself. This is a great one for people who struggle to engage with strangers and is a sure fire way to build relationships at your next networking event!
ASK OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS!
A great option for anyone who can’t stand the awkward small talk that happens when you first meet someone. Ask them questions that demand a real answer and can’t be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. These sort of questions such as “Why did you choose to enter your industry?” you find provoke the most interesting responses from people but put you at ease by making the conversation flow better and feel more natural. (Don’t forget to actually listen!).
FOLLOW UP NEW CONTACTS!
Before you do anything, take a second to give yourself a pat on the back or a solo round of applause, whatever you’re into, you’ve already done the hardest part. It’s funny though how many people forget to do the easy part – sustain and build on these relationships. Don’t lose contact with these people! Send them a quick email, connect with them on LinkedIn, remember the small things and focus on having a genuinely good relationship with this person and remember there’s a difference between trying to contact someone a few times and stalking. People will recognise you’re genuine and the rest will come.
For more tips and tricks on networking and the science behind meeting people click here.