Everyone is familiar with that age-old saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” and there’s a reason why that saying has been around for so long. Networking in business, getting to know other people and keeping in contact with them, is an area that’s easily navigated by some, but not so easy for most.
Oftentimes, we’ll put too much pressure on ourselves when attending networking events, and we can end up leaving not having accomplished much more than we did when we walked in. Below, we have 5 tips you can put to use to assure that your next networking opportunity is a success:
Have a clear goal in mind
When attending a networking event, have your goals clearly defined before you even walk into the room. This will help you devise a game plan when you arrive – and you’ll have a larger chance of success before you head out.
Observe your surroundings
Take a moment and survey the room and people to get a feel for things. Where do you want to start making your rounds? Pinpoint two to three people that you’d like to speak with before the end of the event.
Ask open-ended questions
When meeting new people, be sure to ask them open-ended questions that require more than a yes/no answer. Also, make sure you’re engaging in a conversation and not turning your chat into a sales pitch. Build relationships and value first – everyone loves someone who truly listens.
Know the difference between “working a room” and “networking” – and do both:
Susan RoAne, best-selling author of How to Work a Room: The Ultimate Guide to Making Lasting Connections In-Person and Online, gave a great example of this once in an interview, saying:
“The ability to circulate through a room, meet, mingle, shmooze, disengage at different events is one skill. The companion skill is being able to really network, which is what you do in the follow-up over time that solidifies the connection and turns it into a relationship.
“Some people are great at working a room; they’re the life of the party. They have great fun, but they have no networking skills. They don’t follow up; they don’t stay in touch; they never remember to send you the lead they promised to send you, or introduce you to the person they said they would.
“On the other hand, some people are fabulous networkers. They do what they say they’ll do; they introduce you to people … and for some of those people, the thought of walking into a room full of people they don’t know can be daunting.”
This is the most important networking tip we have to offer. When you go to events, people want to meet the real you (and vice versa). Fake it ‘til you make it may work in certain situations, like giving yourself a confidence boost, but don’t go into events making up an entirely new backstory for yourself in hopes of sounding impressive. Oftentimes, people can see right through that and would much rather meet the person you really are, as opposed to the one you want them to think you are.
What do you do that helps you own the room at networking events? We’d love to hear your networking tips in our comment section below!