Networking is one of those things that can be super awkward and uncomfortable! However, it doesn’t have to feel that way, which is why I want to share 5 audacious networking tips with you..
Networking is not a thing of the past; it’s something that is at the foundation of building relationships and being able to interact with others in a social environment, whether that be online or physically in person. So let’s get into it and dive in with the first tip.
Break the ice with something other than the weather.
In the UK we have a habit of talking about the darn weather when there are so many other interesting things happening in the world and in life! It’s just too easy to talk about the weather and it’s predictable (and predictable is boring). Start going into conversations being your true self. Don’t over think things or try too hard! Sometimes I might see someone with an amazing pair of shoes, so that’s what I’ll break the ice with because I love shoes!! Now, if being yourself leads with the weather, then fair enough, but be sure you’ve got something else up your sleeve to talk about. Think about some of the things that grab your attention and use one or more of those as an icebreaker.
This might not work for you at all, because not everyone is a morning person! You may prefer to flip it on its head and have self-care time at a different time in the day and that’s awesome. Do what’s right for you.
Don’t stand on the sidelines.
Don’t be the person that stands (or sits) on the side lines looking lost or on their smartphone. Arriving early helps with this as walking in late (or joining Zoom late) can sometimes be awkward or a bit uncomfortable. When it comes to joining in, look for that break in the conversation that allows you to slip in and introduce yourself. But don’t force it; if the people talking make the circle smaller (unfortunately it happens), they are probably not the best people to speak to anyway. Find people that are warm, kind and engaging.
You don’t have to speak to everybody.
Make a connection with at least one to three people, build relationships and get to know them by asking great questions. The people that work the room just for the sake of it and without purpose are the ones I tend to avoid because they make it about them. You see them going from person to person, making small chit chat before handing over a card…do people still use business cards? Anyway. Over the years, I’ve managed to build some long lasting relationships through networking. Some people turned into clients when I was coaching, and others into friends. The possibilities and opportunities by creating those solid connections are endless!
Be a listener instead of a talker.
It’s amazing what you can pick up on by listening to what a person has to say and taking in every word. Allow the other person to tell you their story in order to build a real connection. How can you add value to that person? This could include introducing them to someone, or directing them to a beneficial resource or tool. Be remembered for being that person who actually genuinely gave a damn versus the person who is all about themselves and what they could get out of the interaction.
After every event I attend, I follow up with all the people I built a connection with on the same day. They are aware I’m going to do this even if it’s at crazy o’clock! For me it’s important to be true to my word and follow through on any promises made. Be sure to include something that leads to a next step, such as meeting up or scheduling a call, depending on the connection you had.