International Women’s Day has been celebrated with women worldwide from diverse cultural backgrounds, socio-economic groups, different businesses and jobs coming together to do what women do best, communicate with each other, share their stories, both positive and not so positive and have a laugh.
At the various events held, they no doubt also offered support and encouragement to each other and perhaps will form lasting friendships and business partnerships. That is the wonderful outcome of networking, not just at women’s occasions like this but also at the various business networking events that may take place in your town or city.
Even though some events may be ‘on pause” right now, meeting new people and connecting with others, I believe will still be at the core of building business relationships.
When networking in a business environment, people often don’t feel comfortable as though there is a hidden agenda or it may seem too “salesy”. And there are others who feel a bit shy and lack the confidence to make conversation.
In this blog is a few ideas to make networking feel a lot more like meeting new acquaintances and just enjoying their company without any hidden agenda. Work the room well and you just may – SHINE.
1. Shy away from going it alone at first. Go with a friend or meet up with someone you know who is going along to the event. That will help you feel a bit more relaxed. Don’t be tempted to just talk to that one person though – you still need to engage with others.
Both of you can approach a group together and join a conversation or approach the outsider. Find the one person on their own and start chatting to them. By making someone else feel comfortable you will feel more at ease. If you are going alone – attend a network event that is in your field or where like-minded people will be. If it is your area of expertise, knowledge and passion, it will make conversation flow a little easier.
If you are an introvert and networking doesn’t come easily to you, you may have to work a little harder to overcome your fear and anxiety. Most people do feel uncomfortable walking into a room full of strangers. To overcome this, pause and take a few breaths before you enter the room. Try and have a plan of what your first move might be, such as meeting your friend or lining up for coffee with a question for the person next to you or approaching the raffle table to purchase tickets. Take a pro-active approach rather than just wait for something to happen.
2. Have an objective in mind or an outcome from attending. It’s not going to be – to win a $10,000 piece of business. That’s unrealistic – but you never know in the long term what may come from connecting with someone. Keep it simple to start.
An outcome of engaging with 5 people and exchanging 5 business cards is achievable. Challenge yourself to chat to one or two people before you head to the bar for reinforcement. Make sure you follow through and invite those people to connect via LinkedIn. Some will accept, some won’t. However, eventually you will start to build your network in person and online.
Reframe networking and think about it as socialising and getting to know people to build relationships instead of schmoozing.
3. Ice breakers. Think of questions in advance that you can ask people. There may be lulls in conversation so having something prepared will help. Practise how you will introduce yourself and have your personal brand statement prepared for the inevitable, “So what do you do?” question. You may have a couple of versions of this prepared for different types of groups. Answer the question well and quickly and ask them the same question, turning the conversation around to be about the other person.
You’re not there to sell but listen and get to know people, understand their business and build relationships. If you know some of the people who are going to be there, do a bit of online research beforehand to see what they have been doing recently. You may notice they have won an award, opened a new office, released a book – or whatever and can engage in conversation by asking them about that.
If you are an introvert having those questions prepared will help and as you are a good listener, you will feel more comfortable and confident about networking by listening to the other person.
4. Notice others. Take an active interest, asks questions, tune into what they are saying, listen and comment. Get clear on the other person’s name and remember it. You can then introduce them to others with a comment about what they do or something of interest. As an example: “This is Pat, I met him at last month’s event and were catching up on his recent holiday to Thailand.”
By simply using their name and saying a little about them, you demonstrate an interest in that person, build more personal rapport and help others with their networking.
Display genuine warmth and friendliness with a warm smile, open body language and good eye contact. Be present in the room with that person and not looking over their shoulder to see if there’s someone more important to talk to.
5. Enthusiasm. Don’t walk into an event feeling dejected or half-hearted about it. If you really feel that way – don’t go. If you are tired and have low energy and really need to recharge you are better off not going.
Smile, when you walk up to a group and introduce yourself. You want to have an uplifting expression rather than looking flustered, or not engaged. Act like you are pleased to be there even if you aren’t feeling confident.
You don’t have to go over the top and be someone you’re not but be the best upbeat version of you. Standing in the corner scoffing the food or scrolling your Facebook feed on your iPhone may make you look busy but is certainly not going to help you win any friends.
Imagine the sense of accomplishment from being there and think about the benefits of attending such as making new contacts, gaining new insight by talking to others and learning something new.
I do hope these few tips help you feel more at ease networking. Promoting yourself and personal PR can help you shine and succeed in business. Learn more in my free video series, NOOK, LOOK, HOOK, 3 Steps to Build a Powerful Personal Brand.
Sue Currie is a speaker and the author of IMPRESSario, Present and Promote the Star Within You. She is recognised as a leading authority on personal and professional PR to boost image, profile, brand and business. Through her professional development and profile building programs, workshops, consulting and keynote presentations, Sue helps businesses and entrepreneurs position and present an influential professional brand.