It can be hard to find calm within a sea of people you don’t know. Networking can sometimes seem the domain of the super extraverted and can be quite daunting to the uninitiated or uncertain.
These are our top 5 tips to make networking at your next event more successful and less standing awkwardly by the cheese platter striking up a conversation with the free champagne (we’ve all been there)...
People want to feel that you are genuinely interested in them. Always start by saying hello and providing your name, then try finding out “what brought you here today”, rather than the age-old, “so…, what do you do?”
The “what brought you here today” question usefully provides a much larger launchpad for follow-up questions that enable you to make the conversation seamlessly flow on to a new topic.
Giving the person you’re talking to full attention with your eyes will encourage them to share more with you.
Rather than telling a new contact all about yourself, spend time asking genuinely interesting questions about their story. It's amazing how much you'll learn. After the person has shared something with you, follow up with another question about the information they just shared. Not only does this show that you’re paying attention, but it also demonstrates that you’re a great conversationalist and it will make the other person feel at ease.
As you build a personal connection, potential business opportunities and synergies between your combined experiences will present themselves naturally.
An effective way to make a good first impression is to join a conversation with a comment that shows you were listening to the current group of people.
Acknowledge a key point to add to the conversation, rather than refocusing on you and your work. Equally, sidling up to a new group can be as easy as asking, “would you mind if I joined you?”
When the times comes to move on, thank the group for their conversation during an appropriate pause in conversation politely stating, “it was wonderful chatting with you and great to meet you. Wishing you [insert name] all the best with [x / whatever you learnt about x]. Have a lovely night”. Or even the following straight up, plain-talking exit always works; “please excuse me, I’m going to go get a drink/check out the nibbles/catch up with someone I’ve just seen across the floor. Have a lovely night”.
If speaking with an individual, you could also suggest that you both go and join a larger group to meet some more new people together: “I think I might go and explore that group over there. Do you want to come with me?”
People always like to hear their own name and it will help you to remember it when the discussion is over too. Another way to embed new names in your memory is to introduce each new person you meet to at least one other person.
Check out our blog Tricks to Remembering Names for more practical strategies to try at your next networking event.
When you meet someone for the first time, use it as an opportunity to get to know them.
Don't try to sell them anything. Instead, begin to establish a relationship and consider what you can offer them. Something as simple as offering to make a helpful introduction goes a long way in leaving a positive impression and will often lead to a long-term relationship.
There you have it, a handy list of networking tips that we hope increase your chances of making great connections at the next conference, meetup or business lunch you’re at. Don’t forget to bring your trustynetworker handbag along with you, trust us, she’s another great conversation starter!