How you network is just as important as where and with whom you network. It’s good to have a networking method that you can rely on when you attend a new event. In a previous blog, Networking – Be Prepared, Not Scared, we discussed the steps you should take in order to prepare for a networking event. Now, let’s discuss some tips on what to do during the networking event to ensure that you successfully attain your networking goal.
Follow these five steps to help you get engaged.
- Arrive Early.For those of you who prefer to arrive everywhere fashionably late, it may be a bit more intimidating to walk into a busy, loud room and try to find someone to spark up a conversation with. Arriving early allows you to get a head start on making contacts. If you are one of the few that show up at the beginning, you will find it easier to find someone to talk to and get started networking.Just make sure you don’t show up too early. You don’t want to arrive when the event is being set up because you may feel a bit awkward waiting around for others or feeling like you are in the way of the setup crew.
- Bring a Friend.If you are even slightly introverted, it may be a lot easier to attend a networking event with one of your friends or colleagues. Find a friend that has the same interests as you or a colleague that wants to network with the same individuals that you do.NOTE: Make sure that the reason you are networking doesn’t conflict with who you invite to go with you, i.e., you don’t want to bring along your co-worker to a networking event where you are trying to find a new job.Your friends are feeling the same about networking as you – they know they should do it, but are nervous about trying to meet new people. Attending together will be a relief to them too because they’ll now have a partner in networking.Having someone by your side when you get stuck without someone new to talk to can settle your nerves. It also makes you seem more approachable if you are already in a conversation and not just looking like a wallflower. Just make sure that the two of you are actually having a conversation and that you aren’t just being wallflowers together.It’s best to meet your buddy before the event and arrive together. Walking into a networking event can be one of the hardest and most awkward parts, so you might as well tackle that together.
- Smile.What is that saying? “If you smile at someone, they might smile back.” Keep that in mind while you are networking. A smile will make people less intimidated to come over and talk to you because you seem like someone who is open and would be fun to have a conversation with. Remember that nobody knows you, so even if you are incredibly nice, they won’t know that if you aren’t smiling.A smile also exudes confidence. If you are standing alone, but are still smiling you will appear very comfortable and you shouldn’t be standing alone for long. Try to catch the eye of someone that is looking around and smile at them, when they smile back it’s a great first step for you to start a conversation with them. Smiling is also a great way to participate in active listening.
- Careful What You Eat – And Drink.Ever returned home after a long day of meetings at work to notice in the mirror that you have a piece of food stuck in your teeth? This can happen while networking, so beware. It is great to enjoy the food and drinks, just make sure that whatever you eat, you still look approachable. And, even if you are not sitting down for dinner, your table manners are still very important while eating and networking.
- Keep your right hand food-free to be able to still shake hands.
- Stick to finger foods so you don’t flip food across the room while trying to cut it with one hand.
- Use your napkin – keep your hands and face clean. After you are done eating make a quick trip to the bathroom to wash your hands.
- Remember what your mother always told you. Don’t chew with your mouth open – or talk with your mouth full.
- Be careful of food that may give you bad breath. Stay away from it entirely or have some mints on hand – remember to steer clear of gum.
- If you don’t like the food, don’t share your feelings. The host may get offended.
- Don’t get drunk. It’s true, drinking can make it easier for you to talk to people you don’t know, but networking is not the time or the place to drink too much and make a scene. Even if you don’t have to drive home, make sure to moderate how much you drink.
- Handshake.A handshake is a very important piece of networking. It is a great way to introduce yourself and to say goodbye. Your handshake will make an impression on them and convey your professionalism. Before, during, and after your handshake make sure you are following other tips to emanate your confidence:
- Stand up straight.
- Don’t cross your arms.
- Don’t plant yourself by the food or in a corner.
No limp wrists please. Don’t rip someone’s hand off either. Make sure you have a strong, firm handshake but don’t squeeze the other person’s hand so hard that they have to shake the pain away after the handshake. And yes, if you are a woman you should shake hands with everyone and if you are a man you should shake a woman’s hand.
Make sure you offer your hand both at your introduction and when you are leaving and tell your new acquaintances that it was nice to meet them. If you shake someone’s hand when you meet them and they refrain from shaking your hand at the end of the conversation when you offered your hand, that may be a good indication that you should do some extra handshake practice at home before your next networking event.
Are there other networking tips you’ve used to help you network?
If you missed it, make sure you read Part I of this blog series:
Check out Part III & IV of this blog series: