For some people, networking is easy and not something they really have to think about too much; for others, it can be the stuff of nightmares. But there are ways you can become a more confident networker that can then have positive effects for your business.
There’s a joke by Jerry Seinfeld where he says that most people are more scared of public speaking than they are of death, which can also extend to meeting new people, introducing themselves, and not becoming memorable for all the wrong reasons. For those who are naturally confident, public speaking would be far, far down the list, but for others, it doesn’t have to be scarier than death.
The benefit of some networking events is that you can see beforehand who’ll be attending, which then gives you a chance to do some research. If there’s anyone in particular you want to talk to, find out some things of interest about them – especially if they match with your own experiences or field of business – to show that you’ve done your homework.
Don’t try to be overly friendly, pushy or obsequious when you meet someone; instead, be friendly and show an interest in what others are saying. It’s okay if you’re nervous, especially if speaking with someone quite senior to you, but just remain calm. If you’re not naturally chatty, then don’t try to overcompensate by talking too much, as this may backfire.
First: put your phone away. Second: put your phone away! It might be okay to check your phone if you’re speaking with a friend or family member, but it can come across as rude if you start checking your phone when speaking to someone you’ve only just met.
Listen and ask questions
Related to the above on preparing, listening intently to what someone is saying and then asking relevant questions will come across really well and show that you’re an engaged listener. And by listening more than talking, it also shows that it’s not just all about you.
Stay positive and professional
Whether you’re currently employed or looking for work, even if you’ve had a bad experience in the workplace, resist the urge to denigrate previous employers or colleagues. Also, don’t talk yourself down (or up) too much, but instead stay positive.
If you had some good interactions with people while networking, don’t be afraid to follow up with them sometime afterwards in a friendly email. You can express how you appreciated what they said and even ask follow-up questions, especially if they showed an interest in your own business.