It can be a lot of fun to network, but it can also be quite difficult if you are new to the experience. That’s why we’ve put together this list of tips to help you make the most out of your encounters.
If you’ve ever walked into a room of people and thought to yourself ‘woah! I’m out of my depth in here.’ Then you won’t have been alone. The truth is, meeting a lot of strangers for the first time is never easy and even some people who do it regularly can find it tricky at times. However, the first thing to remember is that you are not alone in your being alone. Most of the people you are surrounded by are experiencing the same thing. So relax!
Focus on your First Impressions
If you’re at a large gathering or conference, then the first impressions you give may be your last, at least for now. That’s why it is important to ensure you get them right. Don’t worry, this isn’t doesn’t mean that you need to feel under a lot of pressure. In fact, being relaxed is likely to gain you more success at networking at conferences.
The way to make a good first impression is to know who you are and what you want to get out of the conversation. Once you have that covered, you will have more confidence to speak to others. Remember, they want to know about you and what you have to offer them. Therefore, knowing what you have to offer is key.
The second crucial part of making a good first impression is to know that it’s not all about you. When you approach someone, you may want something from them but the best way to get that is to make them feel important. You can do this by asking questions and showing interest. If you ask questions, then you can then lead the conversation in the direction you want it to go. It also enables you to find out more about them whilst giving them the impression that they are in control. It’s a great trick and one which, when practised, can open up a lot of doors as you become more efficient.
What to wear
Knowing what to wear is never easy, but when it comes to networking, it can be really difficult to hit the right note. Power dressing may scare some people off, whilst underdressing can make you seem unimportant and out of touch. Therefore, it’s important to hit a middle ground. Neutral colours are always good, but to ensure that you don’t blend into the background, make sure to set them off with something. It may be a nice piece of jewellery or a tie. Having a focal point for your outfit will also enable you to engage more easily in conversations, as quite often when done well, people will ask about it. This can be a great way to have others break the ice for you.
This is a must for any networking event. Always make sure you have business cards. They don’t have to be too flashy. In fact, you should aim to keep them as simple as possible, with just a few details on. Once again, a small logo or design, such as a coloured corner, will ensure that there is something on them which people can associate with you.
Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to meeting people. There is nothing worse than meeting someone who exaggerates their abilities and then when called to task, can’t deliver on their claims. It’s a waste of people’s time and it will stop you from making inroads later on.
When talking about what you do, don’t be afraid to be humble. If you are finding certain things difficult, then talk about them. Others may be able to help you out. After all, most of the people at events you visit will have had very similar experiences to you and therefore you shouldn’t be ashamed of struggle as it’s par for the course when it comes to business.
Keep in Touch
If you meet people at events and conferences that you think could be useful and that you felt as though you had shared interests, then make sure you keep in touch afterwards. Try to follow up within 3-5 days of the event and that way you won’t seem overly eager and they won’t feel as though they were at the bottom of the pile.
If you don’t reach out after events, then all of the time you spent meeting people will be wasted. So it is vital that you make the effort to build lines of communication. Even if they can’t help you personally, they may know someone who can.
Remember to have fun
One of the great things about networking events and conferences is that they can be a lot of fun. They often have after parties and events and they are designed to bring like-minded people together. Therefore, whilst your primary goal should be to network, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t enjoy the experience.
For more information about how to network and more detailed insights into effective communication, check out the EPC Matters blog.