Networking has never been more important than now, even though we live in the digital age. Face-to-face networking events such as conferences, trade shows and more are still popular ways to make new business connections.
And for some people, the thought of networking can set their hearts to beating rapidly and stress setting in, along with a good dose of fear. We understand!
However, if you want to be successful in the business world, it’s still necessary to master the art of networking. With the right professional contacts, you’ll be able to expand your business, gain new partners and even meet new clients.
It all starts with introducing yourself in the right way and making a great first impression. Here are some tips to help up your networking skills, even if you’re an introvert. The good news is that you definitely don’t have to fake being an extrovert! Let’s get started!
1). Relax and don’t stress: when you relax, others will also feel relaxed. Do what helps you to relax, such as meditating and deep breathing, prepare for the event ahead of time, or even bring along a work companion to help relieve some of the pressure you may be feeling.
Just be relaxed, stay calm and everything will be OK.
2). Focus on building genuine connections: we said you didn’t have to fake it and you shouldn’t. People know when you’re faking it. Instead, show a genuine interest in the people you’re talking with. Ask questions to get to know them better, learn about their work and the company they work for.
As you build on these genuine business relationships, you’ll find that new opportunities start to come around, even when you least expect them. Just remember to avoid taking over the conversation or only talking about yourself and your company. Take a real interest in the person you’re speaking with, and all will go well.
3). Remember to smile: OK, we need to remind you not to fake it—not even by using a fake smile. Instead, be real and use a real smile. A smile makes you appear more approachable and welcoming. Be authentic and show interest in the other person. And smile.
4). Listen: a conversation is two sided, never one-sided. So, when you’re speaking with someone, remember to also listen to them and not only talk. Show interest in what they’re saying and be sure to join in with the conversation, but listen, too.
Be sure to acknowledge what they’re saying, such as any key points they may addressing. Focus on them and their work, all the while listening. You may just learn some valuable information this way.
5). Start networking with your current contacts: if you already have contacts, make it a habit to stay in contact with them on a regular basis. You can even practice your elevator with them and ask them for an honest opinion and/or advice on how to improve it.
Networking doesn’t always mean chasing new contacts. Staying in touch with current contacts is also a great way to drum up new opportunities and build new partnerships.
6). Don’t give the hard sell: many people have the impression that networking is all about giving the hard sell. It’s not. When you’re at a networking event, it’s best to be authentic and casual. You want to avoid coming across as “salesy.”
If someone is truly interested in your business, then yes, share details about what you do, etc. Just avoid giving the hard sell, which is a major method to people away.
7). Research attendees & write up some questions: when approaching others, it’s best to appear knowledgeable and prepared. Before a networking event, find a list of attendees, and then research which ones might be best for you to talk with.
During the research phase, as you develop a list of people to meet, you can also work up some questions. These can help you learn about others, have two-way conversations on interesting and industry-specific topics and more.
8). Pay attention to seemingly unimportant details: when you’re in a conversation with another person, listen to the details they share with you. For instance, the other person may share something about their life, their interests, hobbies and more.
These small details may come in hand in the future; for instance, if you happen to meet the person another time, or when sending them an email after the event. These personal touches show you care and that you’re listening.
9). Don’t focus on getting something out of the contact: many people make the mistake of going into networking only with the goal of getting something from the contact. If you have this intention, others will sense it, leading them to avoid you all together.
Instead, focus on genuine interactions with the people you meet. Focus on them when they’re talking and keep everything relaxed and casual. Don’t make the other person feel you’re out for something from them, such as work or a partnership. These will only come from genuine interactions with others.
11). Stay in touch after the event: this can’t be stressed enough. Always reach out to new contacts you’ve made at a networking event or other type of meeting. Be friendly and genuine, and let the other person you truly enjoyed meeting and talking with them.
After this initial email, be sure to follow up once in a while such as on a birthday or just because. Show that you really take an interest in them. The more you stay in touch, the easier your next interactions with them will be.
No matter if you’re an introvert or not, these tips can help you make genuine connections at networking events of all types. Just be yourself, stay relaxed, and remember to focus on the other person and listen to what they have to say. Following these tips will help you make more connections that turn into future opportunities!