“Get in that room and network, network, network” is a phrase I’ve heard in pretty much everyone of my jobs – from my university lecturers, PR managers, marketing executives and editors. As a young 19-year-old it, tip-toeing into an event full of intimidating fashionista’s was the most daunting feeling – I may as well as walked in naked because I couldn’t have felt more exposed. But, ironically, the more I forced myself out of my comfort zone, the more comfortable I felt. Whatever your job is, there’s a high chance that networking will factor in at some point. Why? Because there’s no better way to make contacts, promote your business and above all, promote yourself. In a world where we hide behind emails and social media, putting a face to a name and building those relationships is still a priceless asset to have and take with you wherever you take your career.
So, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, networking can turn the steadiest of legs into jelly at the sight of an incoming handshake. But, I’ve managed to pick up a few tips from my wise bosses over the years and realised a few myself, so I hope they help to get you into that room and “network, network, network”.
It sounds so simple but walking into a room with a smile on your face
is a lot more welcoming and approachable than an expression of terror (even if that’s what you’re really feeling!). Remember that feelings of insecurity aren’t facts so fake it til you make it.
MAKE A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION
The general ‘rule’ is that if someone is five feet away from you, you have to acknowledge them. To start a conversation there’s a number of ice-breakers. It could be as simple as “hi, how are you?” or a circumstantial introduction which might be a funny song, loud music, an empty glass or anything that will bond you with another person to start the conversation.
THINK OF THEM AS YOUR BEST FRIEND
I’m a pretty confident person now but I didn’t used to be. I hated awkward silences and really panicked about the thought of them. So my main objective became about the person I was speaking to and how I could put them at ease. This meant I started to talk to them like I would a good friend
. Ok, I wouldn’t ask personal questions but something familiar like “what have you been up to today?” was surprisingly effective.
DON’T TALK BUSINESS STRAIGHT AWAY
Although the majority of networking events are focused on getting something, your key purpose is to befriend them first so they feel more comfortable giving you something. Don’t go in there all guns blazing about why you and your company are the best. Let the conversation naturally take its course and if there’s an opportunity to turn it to work, grab it!
IF IT’S GOING BADLY…
Don’t blame yourself
. Not everyone is going to gel with you or be a good conversationalist and that’s fine. They might be terrible at networking themselves or are having a bad day. If it’s at the point of no return, politely ask for their card and wish them a good evening. At least you then have their contact details to follow up another time and they can put a face to a name.
FIND A WING MAN OR WOMAN
Dragging a buddy along for the ride is a sure fire way to feel more comfortable and less exposed. Ideally, make sure it’s someone that’s confident talking to people that would help you to break the ice. Just make sure they’re not going to dominate the conversation and take the focus off of you!