Anyone who says that they aren’t intimidated when they walk into a room full of strangers is not telling the whole truth. There are some, who can breeze through a room at a networking event and make it look easy. For everyone else, it’s an exercise in building self-confidence and practice.
As an account executive at BDB, I have witnessed my colleagues work a room like seasoned professionals. Here are some of my tips to improve your networking skills:
- Get there early. By arriving before others, you don’t have to face a room full of people
- Ask questions. Don’t fall into the trap of talking about yourself too much. Find out about others, their challenges, and interests
- Eating or drinking too much. Eat something before you go. Don’t be the person hovering around the canapés instead of talking to people
- Approach the right people. Observe body language. Do they look deep in conversation? It’s best to approach groups of people with open body language
- Follow up. Whether it is a LinkedIn connection, an email, or a phone call, following up helps to make a lasting impression.
We’re encouraged to believe that networking is not an opportunity to sell. Being overly promotional and trying to weave in your company’s key messages into every conversation will only drive people away. Networking is a way to meet like-minded people and build relationships. This also requires managers to not ask if networkers have returned with leads.
Try not to think that no one will be interested in what you have to say – you have to change your mindset. The people that you meet might not be new clients, but it is expanding your circle of contacts. Perhaps they will know someone that can help you?
With a large variety of networking events available, from breakfast meetings, to evening events, the best way to learn how to network effectively is to practise.
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