Maybe you feel confident tweaking your bio for the school open house, but your palms sweat when you think about going out to a networking event and building connections face to face. With a little advance planning and positive thinking, you can be just as poised at networking events as you are behind your computer screen or at your center. Try these suggestions for working a room.
Steps to Take Before Your Networking Events
- Do your research. Advance research is a great solution whenever you want to calm your nerves and make a strong impression. Browse online for details about the event, venue, and expected crowd.
- Clarify your purpose. Focus on your goals instead of the butterflies in your stomach. Maybe you want to invite two new acquaintances out for coffee. Perhaps you are looking for a potential mentor. Maybe you want to consult with experts about the impact of recent legislation on your industry.
- Bring a friend. While you eventually want to be able to muster the courage to fly solo, companionship can help while you’re still in training. Just be sure to split up frequently so you can mingle with others.
- Volunteer your services. Transform yourself into an instant insider. Call the hosts and offer to help with registration or escorting speakers. You’ll probably meet more participants, and your role provides an instant icebreaker as guests come to you for information.
- Prepare small talk. Are you stumped for something to say? Read up on breaking industry news. Write down questions you want to discuss with other guests.
- Dress the part. Appearances count too. Convey that you have a lot in common by going along with the dress code for jeans and t-shirts, or blouses and khakis. You’ll feel more at ease and start to build rapport.
- Bring mints. Smell as good as you look. Fresh breath makes it easier to wow others with what you have to say.
- Bring your business cards. Having your business cards gives you a simple way to indicate that you want to get to know the person you are talking with better. It also is a great way to get their contact information. If you don’t have any, head over to vistaprint and order a small box for less than $10. It is worth it.
Steps to Take at Your Networking Events
- Radiate enthusiasm. Smile wide and think positive. Remember how beneficial the event can be for your career and how much you appreciate those around you.
- Straighten up. Good posture boosts your mood and shows others that you’re strong and capable. Tuck your stomach in and roll your shoulders back and down.
- Make eye contact. Starting conversations with strangers can be challenging. Establishing eye contact is a natural way to gain someone’s attention and introduce yourself. From there, you can start chatting about the food or the program.
- Express interest. Guests at a networking event are likely to be eager to talk about themselves and their business. Ask open-ended questions that keep the conversation going. Share your own relevant experiences. Give them a card.
- Be authentic. There’s plenty of advice available about networking. Sift through the information for tips that match your strengths and personality.
- Slow down. Pace yourself. Be courteous and friendly to each guest, but reserve your business cards for those colleagues you’re interested in following up with. Enjoy your initial conversations without rushing to connect on social media or promote your own products and services. Healthy relationships are based on trust that grows over time.
- Move along. Leave your contacts wanting more. It’s usually more productive to strike up brief conversations and make plans to talk again later if you think you’ve discovered a potential client or partner. That way you can dial down the pressure and explore more options.
Show up at annual conventions and monthly luncheons ready to make new contacts and stay in touch with old friends. Create business and social opportunities by reaching out to others. Allow your real self to shine through and feel your newfound confidence. You can do this!
If you are still not sure you can do it, take a moment to read my thoughts on waiting to try something new. Why Waiting for the Right Moment is Often a Mistake Trying something new can be scary, but not is stagnation.
Take a moment to let us know about a networking event you have gone to and how it went.