Socializing is a basic when it comes to business networking. You can’t be shy. If you are one who attends networking groups of events and stand on the side and watches others socialize, you are making a big mistake.
Networking doesn’t have to be something you dread. Everyone has something they can offer to the community. You are probably not the only one that can’t seem to get in the swing of things. If you are feeling uncomfortable, ask someone if they can introduce you to some people or tag along with a friend to a couple of sessions. This will help you to warm up and develop the confidence you need to branch out on your own.
You won’t improve your networking skills if you don’t practice. Practice doesn’t not make you perfect… it makes you better!
Here are a few rules of the road that you need to adopt if you are going to do some serious networking:
• First, connect. Interact with others.
• Always make good eye contact.
• Be authentic. Be yourself. Talk real, act real, be real.
• Project a good self-image. If your image does not reflect who you really are, today is the day to make a change.
• Wear a smile.
• Share your wisdom. Everyone has something special that they excel in.
• Before you go, set a goal to make at least 5 new connections. Make some new friends.
• Follow up with an offer to meet for lunch to get to know each other better.
• It’s best to approach a person, not a group of people who are already engaged in conversation.
• Be the first to put your hand out and introduce yourself – every time. Don’t assume that they can read your name tag.
• Wear a name tag on your right shoulder. It should be the first thing they see when shaking your hand. That way your hand, your face and your name tag are all in line with each other.
• Small talk can often feel uncomfortable and awkward, but you need to ask good questions; questions that cannot be answered yes or no. Learn to control the conversation with a few good questions.
• Be quick find common ground. Find out what they are interested in.
• Don’t monopolize anyone’s time. You can get to know them better at a private one-on-one meeting.
• Follow through with your promises. If you say you will call them soon… do it. This is one of the biggest problems with most people who are in sales. They don’t follow-up. Keep your word.
• Be interested and be interesting.
• Large events where Hors D Ouvres will be served, consider eating before you go. Breakfast and lunch meetings with networking groups may be an exception.
• Use their first name often. It will help you remember it.
• Listen completely. Pay attention. That means focus on what the other person is saying. Really focus.
• Get involved in the group. Volunteer in some capacity. This will help you meet other members quicker. It’s important to become a part of a community.
• Carry a prop. This could be a drink (careful not to over imbibe) or a club soda or a pad of paper in your hand. This will keep your hands occupied and allow you to stay focused on the conversation. Always hold a cold drink in your left hand so when you shake hands they will feel a warm grip.
• Never try to sell anyone your services when first meeting. Talk about them. It’s not all about you. Find a way you might be able to help them accomplish something they are working on. Be a problem solver.
“Your opening should never be about how amazing you are, but about your level of interest in the new contact you have made.” ~ Jason Berek-Lewis
• Be polished. Look sharp. Dress well. The right clothes projects confidence.
• Use good posture and have a firm handshake, but be gentle.
• Bring a pocket full of business cards. However, instead of giving out cards to the masses give your business cards out sparingly. I only give cards to people I have an interest in knowing better or if they ask for one.
• Bring a pen with you if you need to make notes. A pen that will write on slick surfaces is a good idea. I often will make a few note of the back of someone’s business card to help me remember the conversation.
• To build a strong relationship you need to give something. Offer a tip or suggestion that has worked for you. Provide useful information.
• Don’t spend time with people you already know; instead introduce them to your new contacts.
• Be a connector. If you visit with someone and later meet someone else that would be a good connection for them be a matchmaker. Make the introduction.
“In the connection economy, there’s a dividing line between two kinds of projects: those that exist to create connections, and those that don’t. When you tell us about your business or non-profit or public works project, tell us first how it’s going to help us connect. The rest will take care of itself.” ~ Seth Godin
When establishing a relationship with a new contact, communicate your sincere interest in his or her work and/or advice and ask enough questions to be informed enough to have a conversation about his or her line of work.
• Be optimistic but get rid of your expectations. True innovation responds to whatever comes next. Building business relationships takes time and that’s what business networking is really about.
Don’t complain to anyone. Just because networking may not be your thing, no one wants to hear that you dislike it, that the food is bad, the place is loud or the people are strange. You’re there… do your job and go home
Watch J.T. O’Donnell offer her “Secret to Easier Networking.”
Copyright © 2012 – Larry James. Adapted from Larry’s latest book, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. Something NEW about Networking is posted on this Networking BLOG every 4th day! Visit Larry’s Networking Website at: “Networking HQ!”
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