We all come across moments where we need to network. Sometimes it is planned; such as a specific event and sometimes it is a complete surprise. Networking is something that a lot of people do not like. In my opinion, it is frustrating for people who are going to events with the sole purpose of either sharing business cards to get leads to sell, or share resumes to get interviews for a job.
These tips will help you at any type of event:
1. You are not working
You are simply speaking with other human beings and you are not here to work. If you can make this mindset shift, then you will see more results. It feels strange to not focus on working, but it is exactly how it works. Even though you or your client/employer have paid money to have you go to the event, do not focus on working. You will come across as either pushy or desperate and, in both cases, it is very unpleasant. People can and will potentially turn their backs on you, because you’re simply being annoying.
2. People enjoy positivity
Focus on happy topics and try to be upbeat. And simply focus on spending a great time with the people there. If you are at a networking event and all you do is be negative and speak about all the troubles in life, people unfortunately will not enjoy speaking with you. That’s just how it is. You can of course share stories about life (the good, the bad, and the ugly), but don’t make it the highlight or the only topic that you speak about.
4. Connect with the right people
Connect with the right people by knowing who they are, who is coming to the event or by meeting many new people often. Now don’t show up to the event and only speak with them or walk straight at them within the first few minutes. Instead, keep in mind the top 5 or 10 people that you do wish to speak with that evening and capture an appropriate moment when you see it.
5. Be ready for the question “what do you do?”
You can prepare an elevator pitch or at least one phrase so that you start the conversation. People want to know who it is that is in front of them and want to know what you do. It is important to take this opportunity and explain not just what you do, but always what you would like to do. Again, be certain to not come across as too desperate and don’t be pushy.
6. You need to build relationships with people
Try to get to know the person that is in front of you and stay in touch to give the relationship time to build. A relationship takes time and isn’t made by having a quick coffee together with people around you. This is only the beginning. Don’t stop with just this coffee and continue building the relationship even after the event.
7. One-off networking simply doesn’t exist
You should create networking as a habit, so it becomes automatic (and authentic) rather than a specific job. Lower your expectations for getting results on the first day to avoid disappointment. Create a habit out of it by going to events regularly and by focusing on building relationships rather than networking. Networking is a verb and not the outcome, the outcome is strong relationships that can bring results both short and long-term.
8. We all have something in common
The easiest way to get to know someone and create a relationship is by finding something in common. This can literally be anything from a job position, to nationality, to personality, to industry. Once you start a conversation with a stranger, try to quickly identify something that you have in common and mention it to the other person. It is scientifically proven that people like other people that are similar in a certain way. Use this to your advantage.
9. Ask open-ended questions to really get a conversation going
To start conversations, focus on listening and responding accordingly. The best type of conversation starter and to keep the flow going is by asking open-ended questions, listen to the answer carefully without interrupting, and then follow up with responding accordingly. That’s conversation 101 right there.
10. Just be you
Again, focus on having conversations with people – that’s all you’re really doing. This is exactly how you will be considered genuine and authentic. The best way to represent yourself is by simply being yourself and not trying to be someone that you’re not. This way you will come across as genuine and authentic, which will result in more profound, and result-focused, relationships.
Now we all know that in life, and especially at a networking event, people want to sell or find a job. We get it. The biggest mistake you can make however, is for this to become your main focus. Instead, focus on the people at the networking event, and you will have more fun and you’ll get better results too.
Author: Lynn Bruines, AEHL and hospitality consultant running an agency for technology companies in the luxury hotel industry.