Do you cringe when you hear the word networking?
Have you ever walked into a room full of strangers and not know what to do?
Do you end up talking to the same set of people you know when you are out in a group?
Do you feel if you speak with someone new they may not be interested in you?
Would you rather wait for someone to come up to you than introduce yourself first?
If you have answered yes to one or more, then you are missing out on a huge opportunity to meet new and interesting people and building you network.
Networking is the single most powerful tool to achieve success in today’s day and age. It is about making connections and building mutually beneficial relationships with people to exp and your sphere of influence. Networking doesn’t mean asking someone for a job or a date. It is about generating an interest in the other person’s mind as to why they should pay attention to you and be willing to share information or advice.
You may have different reasons to want to network and whom to network with and what you want to achieve from it. But how you go about doing it, is what will set you apart from everyone else on this journey. So here are my:
10 Easy Steps to becoming a Champion Networker… ….
Step 1: Personal Grooming
You don’t need to wear designer clothes or accessories to impress others but you must dress well and look your best for the occasion. Choose your look based on the event you are attending whether it’s smart casual, semi formal or a black tie occasion. Make sure you are well groomed and smell good. According to Denis e Ng, of Imago Image, complement your skills and abilities with a professional persona. She says it’s important to br and yourself because in real life, impressions do count. But always remember, for others to like you, you must first like yourself. Having a positive attitude towards oneself helps boost confidence and how others may perceive you.
Step 2: Prep Work
This step is as important as what you do at an actual event. This involves researching on people/industry/external affairs or any topic pertaining to the event you are attending. Also prepare a 30 second speech about yourself, which is a summary of your achievements to date and the goals that you have planned for the future. Practice and rehearse your introduction and conversation topics. Choose appropriate attire/accessories. And give yourself plenty to time to get ready.
Step 3: Scanning and approaching the right person/s
Before you enter the gathering pay a visit to the restroom for last minute touch ups. Look in the mirror and adjust your posture. Walk out with confidence and a smile on your face. When you walk in, quickly but subtly scan the room. Find the person or persons you may want to start with. Make the approach. Am anda Haddaway author of Interviewer Success: Become a great interviewer in less than one hour suggests st anding near the door as people have a greater tendency to remember the first and last people they meet.
Step 4: Starting a conversation
If you are meeting a person st anding alone, bring your h and out for a h andshake and introduce yourself. If you are approaching a group, find a gap between the conversation before making your introduction. Pay attention to what everyone is talking about and remember the names. Have some conversation starters ready which can be especially useful when there is an awkward silence.
Step 5: Taking the next step
If you have had a successful conversation with someone, do not hesitate to make the next step. Offer your business card and ask for their details. Suggest a one on one catch up. And if you are comfortable then you may even fix the next meeting. Make sure you offer something of value to them as well. Darrah Brustein founder of Network Under 40 says if you’re asking great questions and considering how you can help others, you’ll naturally start to draw connections between who you are talking to and others in your network. Offer to make these connections!
Step 6: Exiting a conversation
Do not stay with the same person for too long unless that meets your objective but be mindful it may not meet theirs. Find a gap in the conversation and make a polite exit. You may suggest the next steps if necessary or shake h ands and wish them a pleasurable evening. And walk over to the next group or person.
Step 7: Post Session Follow Up
Post the networking session you can follow up with an email with a short note. Make sure you reference the event and follow up on anything you may have discussed. You can also suggest a formal meeting or a causal catch up based on your conversation at the event. You may also connect via professional social media. If you do not receive a response it is OK for you to send a second email after a week.
Step 8: Pre Work for second meeting
Once you manage to set up a meeting you should book the right venue to meet and inform your guest. You may choose to meet at yours or their office or meet at a neutral location such as a bar or a restaurant. But make sure it’s not too noisy as it will be difficult to hear each other. It is also important you practice your content and be clear on what outcome you want to achieve. Again pay attention to grooming (per step 1).
Step 9: Second Meeting
Always make sure you arrive before time but not too much. Follow the instructions from Step 3 with last minute touch ups, confident posture and smile. Greet your guest and make polite conversation before you get into deeper/meaningful conversation. Strike a balance between talking and listening. Be concious of time. Agree upon next steps before end of the meeting.
Step 10: Continued Efforts & Success
Continue to building your network by attending events and being ready whenever you meet someone, as opportunities can arise anywhere. Practice & rehearse your content and bring upon improvement. Develop varied interests. Keep in touch with the people you meet and follow up as required.
Final Words of Wisdom
In order to get the best outcome, learn to get rid of fear and keep a positive mindset. As Devora Zack of CEO Only Connect Consulting and author of Networking for People Who Hate Networking, says ‘Be true to yourself because you are better qualified to be you than anyone else. Remember that everyone is at a networking event to get to know a new person. Do not think of it as a task. Try to have fun and be ready to grow your network.
Neera Gupta, is a published author and runs an event management company. She has lived in more than 10 countries and recently moved to Hong Kong with her husb and, 15 month old daughter and two dogs. She frequently gives talks on art of networking and supports expat communities locally.