Networking can be a big, scary thought for anyone. Introverted or not, knowing how to bring your best self, make the most of interactions, and ensure you leave a (positive) lasting impact can be tricky.
So how do you survive the interaction? What do you say?
Below are five skills for networking to help you survive your next event.
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1. Look approachable
In a time before curbside pick up and Doordash, conversations happened naturally in the line at the coffeeshop. You'd chat about the weather, where you're from, what looks good on the menu...and now we're all glued to our phones. Conversations don't happen naturally when our body language tells others that we're too busy to connect.
So, keep your phone in your pocket, uncross your arms, and make eye contact!
2. Read badges, not minds
There's a lot of weight in a name. It quickly identifies us as familiar and curious, at the same time. And the benefit to events and conferences? Everyone's name is hanging from their necks (or slapped on a sticky to their chest).
As Dale Carnegie said:
Introduce yourself to them personally and confidently use their name. You'll score an instant connection and make a great first impression.
3. Practice, practice, practice
Often the most stressful part about networking is knowing what to say about yourself. It can be intimidating being around so many (likely) successful people, all trying to get something out of the event. The more you've practiced a few lines about yourself, the more likely it is they'll come to you when your mind goes blank after you introduce yourself.
Give it a try at your desk, in front of the mirror, or while you're walking the dog. You want your default intro response to be a statement you're proud of, not a list of chores you've got to do.
4. Be a connector
Once you've landed your obviously stellar introduction, now you've got to carry the conversation. You'll naturally gravitate towards the classic small talk topics, the "where are you froms" and the "did you attend last year?"
As you begin really getting into the conversation, keep a mental rolodex of what people do, what their pain points are, and what excites them.
These golden nuggets of information can really pay off because:
Which brings us to our highest value question: "What are you hoping to learn or gain from being here?"
This is the magic sauce, the secret ingredient. Here you'll learn what's motivated them to face strangers and put themselves out there. Listen carefully and scan that Rolodex to see how you can help them. If you remember that Rob from booth 56-A also happens to be a triathlete, connect your new acquaintance! Go out of your way to introduce folks to others, and above all, be helpful.
5. Close with an opening
How do you leave a conversation gracefully? Easy, be honest. Thank them for the conversation and tell them there’s lots of other people you need to meet (and leads you need to collect to show your boss).
But more importantly, end the conversation with an open door.
Yes, ask for the business card, but also tell them what you’re going to do with it. Tell them you’ll write tomorrow to schedule a video call, send them that hotel recommendation in Seattle, or forward their info to that contact you mentioned.