Networking. For many of us, simply hearing the word fills us with dread. The thought of selling ourselves and our businesses to strangers without coming across as desperate or, perhaps worse, arrogant, is a daunting one.
But networking is something we can’t escape if we want to get ahead in the business world. The opportunity for referrals, gaining golden nuggets of advice from experienced businesspeople, and raising our own company profile are just some of the benefits to be gained. So, how can we make the most of a networking opportunity and, most importantly, how do we get those all-important conversations right?
Approaching somebody to get a conversation started can be intimidating. But remember, you’re all in the same boat. Even the most experienced networker had to start somewhere and may not know a single person in the room. Keep it simple, and there’s less chance of leaving a lasting impression for the wrong reasons. Start with a simple “Hello, I’m ____ “, make eye contact, and offer a warm smile and a handshake.
Preparation is key
When we’re nervous, it’s easy to lose a sense of time. Rehearse your company brief before the event and ask a friend or colleague to time you. Initially, you want to aim for a 30 – 60 second introduction about yourself and your organisation.
We human beings love to talk about ourselves. Although talking about yourself might make the time pass more easily, you need to make sure that your conversation partner feels that you’re interested in him/her. Ask business-related personal questions, such as how long they’ve been in the industry, whether they’ve been at the company for long and if they’ve been to any interesting events or conferences recently.
Know when to move along
Once we’re in the flow of conversation and the initial awkwardness has passed, it’s easy to cling on to your fellow networker. However, you don’t want to be remembered as the person who just couldn’t be shaken off! Look out for subtle body language cues that suggest the conversation should be coming to an end. If you’re the one who wants to cut things short, do so politely and suggest you get in touch again post-event.
Okay, networking is daunting, but think of the possibilities! A connection that could lead you to your next big break could be just around the corner. Be positive, shake off those nerves and enjoy!
If you need help to brush up on your networking skills, contact us today.