We have all been there. A stuffy room filled with complete strangers, questionable catering and awkward silences. For some, even the word ‘networking’ induces feelings of panic, dread and self-doubt. However, your love/hate relationship with forming new connections doesn’t have to be so stressful.
The contacts we acquire over our working life from such scenarios can be a vital resource to help build long-lasting business relationships. Yes, networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but with a little preparation, the once awkward silence can be transformed into an enjoyable and fruitful experience.
To help you connect with confidence at your next networking event, have a go at applying our 6 top tips:
- Go into the room with a clear purpose. What outcome do you want to achieve? Who would you like to meet? Don’t be afraid to ask for a copy of the delegate list beforehand. This will highlight if there is a specific company or individual that you would like to engage with.
- Remember, what goes around comes around. Aim to help others by telling them something useful that they didn’t know or simply help them make connections with people who could be of assistance. If you help make connections for others, they will often return the favour.
- Avoid ‘working the room’. All too often, attendees enter an event ready to sell. Instead, listening is far more effective when creating a good first impression. Get the other person talking about what interests them, rather than launching into a sales pitch with each encounter.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of ‘small talk’. To aid you if conversation starts to run dry, prepare some relevant start-up lines or ice-breakers. For example, “What did you think of the speaker?” “How far did you have to travel?”.
- Avoid focusing all your energy on one person. We network to meet people so it is natural to move on. Learn your exit lines and strategies, including how to introduce others. Say something pleasant about your conversation and ask for their card if you’re interested.
- All too often, people leave events with piles of business cards and contacts, but how often do they invest time following-up their new connections? The time and effort spent networking is wasted unless you follow-up, so take responsibility for initiating contact.