How to Ace Your First Networking Event
After two years of virtual business meetings, many networking events are returning to an in-person format. Guest contributor, Emily, explains how to put yourself at ease and create a positive impression in any networking environment, to ensure you get the best out of the experience.
Business networking is all about making connections with other people. However, if you have never done this before on a large scale, attending a networking event such as a job fair, networking dinner, industry conference, or promotional gala can be an intimidating experience.
But it doesn’t have to be daunting. Read on for some simple tips to create a positive first impression, and make sure people remember you for all the right reasons.
People Like Nice People
Can nice guys succeed in the business world? Yes, they can! They thrive, in fact.
“Everyone knows blunt, impolite, and even rude people who are somehow extremely successful (I know a bunch of them), “ says Inc. magazine contributing editor Jeff Haden. ”But since we’re all more likely to do business and build professional and personal relationships with people we like, we’re naturally drawn to people who are polite, modest, agreeable, kind. In short, people who are charming.”
The following six steps can help you build rapport and develop useful business relationships at any networking event.
1.Make Eye Contact
Good eye contact is essential. It says: “I’m listening. You’re important.”
If you find yourself having trouble maintaining eye contact, try examining the colours in the other person’s eyes. This can help you feel less nervous.
Maintaining eye contact also allows you to mirror the other person’s body language. If you smile when they smile, frown when they frown, nod when they nod, or display other body postures as they do, they will naturally feel that you are paying attention to them and that you respect what they are saying.
Smiles are disarming. They let the other person know that you are happy to be in their presence.
3. Remember People’s Names
People are impressed and gratified when you remember their names. At some events, you may be able to learn guests’ or speakers’ names in advance. If you call them by name at your first meeting and perhaps share something that you already know about them, you will form an instant connection.
If you have trouble remembering names, repeat the other person’s name back to them immediately after hearing it. Try discreetly writing them down as soon as you get an opportunity.
4. Try Not to Talk too Much
You may think that networking should be about displaying your best qualities and accomplishments to others. Yet, you do not want to fall into the trap of talking too much about yourself. Instead, be genuinely interested in other people. Ask them questions to draw them out and get them talking. Pay attention to what they say.
5. Show Vulnerability
In the business world, vulnerability is not usually regarded as a positive thing. But when you’re getting to know someone, it can be.
Think about it – if you meet a business associate for the first time and the two of you automatically try to one-up one another, what will the result be? Likely, you will see each other as rivals rather than supportive associates.
Instead, don’t try to outdo or impress the other person. If they talk about some amazing accomplishment, let them know that you’re impressed. It’s disarming. Ask them questions. admit your own failures. You may be able to learn something from their comments. At the very least, you’ll be seen as genuine.
You can also use your own experiences as a cautionary tale. People like that. If you’re willing to serve as a source of laughter, that can be appealing, too. Just make sure that you’re able to laugh as well. “When you own your foibles, people don’t laugh at you,” says Haden, “they laugh with you. And they realise it’s OK to let down their own guards and meet you at a genuine level.”
6. Don’t Win Arguments
Dale Carnegie, the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, writes, “Any fool can criticise, condemn or complain – and most fools do.”
Because we live in a world where we are so used to questioning everything and playing devil’s advocate, it can be easy to fall into the habit of automatically contradicting another person. But this is not beneficial in a networking situation. You don’t want to argue with potential business associates.
Instead, look for points you can agree on. If you feel that you must share a different point of view, do so gently, tactfully, and respectfully.
Simply put, you’ll make the best connections with other business professionals when you make them feel important. You can do this by making eye contact, smiling, remembering their names, looking for common ground, admitting your mistakes, and avoiding arguments.
About the author
Emily Brown is Communication and Public Relations Manager at Online-cvs.co.uk. An enthusiast of all things digital and marketing related, Emily is helping the online CV builder to become a reference for job seekers in the UK market.
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