It’s natural to gravitate towards people we like, know and trust. Professional networkers don’t do that! They look for new people to meet. Some people go to a networking meeting or event and all they do is one of two things:
#1. They hang out all evening with their friends – people they already know. Don’t fall into the trap of sticking together with friends for the whole event. Learn to manage your mingle-ability!
#2. They circle the room like a buzzard collecting as many business cards as they can fit in their pocket(s) and all the while pitching their product or service… getting nowhere!
If you want to build a strong network, you have to meet new people. Check your attitude. It’s important to maintain an outgoing and friendly attitude. Give yourself a positive talking to before you enter the room. If you don’t like people, or are embarrassed or to shy to talk to people, “get over it!” Feel the fear and do it anyway! It’s not always easy to muster the energy to try and connect with people at networking events, however it’s something you must learn to do.
View networking as an occasion to find what you have in common with other people there. Commonalities help “strangers” connect more easily. Take the initiative to approach others, introduce yourself, and share a piece of information that could reveal the common thread you share with them. Remember they are there for the same reason you are; to meet new people and develop new relationships.
Don’t be a buzzard! Forget #2 above. That doesn’t get you where you want to go.
I love people! it’s one of the mandatory characteristics of a successful networker. If you don’t like people and walk around like a sourpuss people may get the wrong impression. When I arrive at a networking event, I stop at the door for a few moments and look around. This gives me time to look for people that I don’t know. I wear my biggest smile and look for someone new to start a conversation with.
If I see people in groups chatting, I walk towards them. Don’t be afraid to eavesdrop. I see if I can overhear bits of conversations. If it’s something I am familiar with, I usually say: “Excuse me, but I couldn’t help overhearing. My name is Larry James and if you don’t mind, I __(say something to get their attention__,” and work my way into the conversation. I try to find something I have in common with them. If not, I more on.
Don’t be shy. At least stop saying you are shy. That doesn’t help you get over it. Expressing an interest in people will help them remember you. Shy people often hang out online because they think it’s easier to meet people if you don’t have to talk with them face-to-face. There really is no substitute for getting over your shyness than by making yourself start a conversation with a stranger. Walking into a room full of strangers can be intimidating. Set a couple of goals like: speak to three new people before you leave.
You don’t have to say anything profound. Comment on the venue, the program or the food. Break the ice by asking a question. You will get better results if you will consider a few question to ask before you arrive at the meeting. You can always keep the conversation going by asking questions to see where they might take you. You might want to ask if they have been to the meeting before or what they like best about this group or how long they’ve live here.
“Ask open-ended questions. These are questions that ask who, what, where, when and how – as opposed to questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Your goal is to explore ideas and opinions and also to show your listening skills.” ~ Nisa Chitakasem
I always try to find someone who I can help. For example, I met a woman recently that just moved here and was in need of a plumber. When I returned to my office, I called her and gave her a referral. Be generous with these kind of referrals, they help build a new relationship and because you offered assistance, they will remember you. Most people appreciate a favor and tend to reciprocate. However, it works best if you give a referral without expecting anything in return.
When you attend networking events, it is important for you to walk through the door with the following definition of networking in mind.
“Networking is… using your creative talents to help others achieve their goals as you cultivate a network of people strategically positioned to support you in your goals… expecting nothing in return!” ~ Larry James
Remember, networking and selling DO NOT mix! Think of yourself as a solution-finder, rather than a sales person. Be of assistance to others. “How can I help you?” is a great question to ask everyone you meet.
Copyright © 2013 – 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 Networking 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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