Networking can boost business
Personal or group networking is one of the best ways to promote yourself and your company. For many, it can be a fear-provoking experience, as walking into a room full of strangers can seem intimidating. Take comfort in the knowledge that many other networkers also share this fear.
Many times part of the fear surrounding networking involves letting your imagination get the best of you. If you envision negative situations such as yourself standing alone, or saying the wrong thing, you are putting yourself in danger of avoiding networking opportunities altogether.
If you are one of the many who find it difficult to attend a networking meeting without knowing anyone, there is hope. Here are some steps to ease those first scary minutes.
- Get mentally prepared. Your attitude is your most important asset. Forget your own anxieties by concentrating on other people. Don’t think of the people there as one large group, but as individuals. This way, you aren’t overwhelmed as you are focusing on meeting others one-on-one.
- Prepare some small talk. Have at least three or four questions in mind that will open up conversations. A question such as, “How did you find out about the meeting?” is open-ended and will draw others out, giving you the opportunity to enter into a conversation. Look for opportunities to meet others and do not restrict your boundaries to the meeting room.For example, if you see a group of people on the way in from the parking lot, you can start a conversation there by asking them if they are going to the networking meeting.
- Make your nametag stand out. If name-tags are appropriate at your meeting, make yours stand out by putting it on your right side to draw eye-contact to it when shaking hands. Make sure it is easy to read and is creative to draw others to you.
- Look for approachable people. Try making eye contact with other people. If a person smiles and makes eye contact back, they are approachable; if they avert their eyes or turn away, they most likely are “avoidable” people. It also is best to try and find people who are also by themselves. Look for someone alone who appears uncomfortable, and usually a conversation will be easy.
- If seating is involved at the meeting and seats are not assigned, then you have a good opportunity to meet new people. Try to find a table where only a few people are seated. You will find them happy to welcome you. Avoid approaching tables that are almost full. They will already be in conversation and may not take notice of you.
Networking with strangers can be scary for many, but if you have a good strategy and are prepared, you will be successful. With a positive outlook you can come away with valuable new contacts and with the ability to comfortably network again and again.