Have you ever attended a networking event and struggled to network? Was this because you sought out the one person you knew and instead of working the room you spoke to this person for the duration of the event? Well, we’ve all done it.
I remember going to my first Institute of Directors lunch; I went to the toilet, put on some lipstick, took a deep breath and told myself “come on Claire, you can do it”, held my head up high and off I went. Walking through the bar and a room full of men, you’d think I would have been in my element. But I wasn’t. I was so self-conscious and in those days not at all confident enough to talk to anyone I didn’t already know; it was a challenge for sure.
Following a recent poll by ComRes, a leading research consultancy specialising in corporation reputation, public policy and communications, for the British Library showed that 62% of British adults surveyed had never attended a networking event. The study also found, that of those that did network 51% felt uncomfortable doing so.
So here are a few tips to help you feel more confident when attending a networking event:
“Bee” prepared. Find the venue and arrive in plenty of time. If the attendees’ list is available, check out who is coming. Only 23% of those surveyed by ComRes said they had researched who would be attending an event they had signed up for. Know what it is that you want to achieve from the event by setting goals. Concentrate on using your precious time to make useful connections and build new relationships.
“Bee” a connector. By asking the organiser for introductions to new people who you ought to meet there you will make valuable use of your time. Then you can become the connector and an introducer and help others develop their network too – as a result opportunities will often follow.
“Bee” remembered. Use a core unique statement to introduce yourself. You have seven seconds for someone to make an impression of you; this is your time to shine. Make sure what you say and how you say it is going to grab this person’s attention. Start with a strong handshake, maintain eye contact and smile as you greet your new contact.
“Bee” aware of body language. It’s important to, not only be aware of your own body language, but also that of others around you. Observe the room for a few seconds and look for people who are most likely to respond positively. These are individuals standing alone who are waiting for someone to talk to or small groups of between two and three people that are clearly open to new participants. You can see this in their body language: if they are facing outward, the chances are that they are having a casual conversation and would be happy for others to join in. However, if their arms are folded in front of their bodies and they are looking at the floor, then they are less likely to want others to join in on their conversation. Similarly, If you are stood on your own and doing the same – or staring down at your mobile phone and not engaging people through eye contact – this will have the same effect. In contrast, leaving your arms unfolded and maintaining good eye contact will welcome people to your space, or conversation if you are already part of a small crowd.
“Bee” interesting. Don’t feel like you have to say something profound to start with. First, you need to break the ice and it can be as simple as commenting on the venue, the programme, food, speaker or the event organiser. Make sure you use plenty of open questions – these are questions that ask who, what, where, when and how – questions that cannot generally be answered with a simple yes or no (closed questions). Your goal is to explore ideas and opinions and also to demonstrate your listening skills.
“Bee” there for your new contacts. Follow up and do so promptly, or risk losing all of your hard work. It is a key way to make sure your networking makes a difference in the long run and that you are building a trustworthy relationship.
Networking is lot like the process of pollination; a small action in one place has a ripple effect that creates another action somewhere else.
Networking is all about how seemingly minor connections or conversations with one person may be discussed across the network and end in a connection later in the process. You never know to whom you are talking. You never know whom it is that your new connection knows; he or she could provide you with future referrals. Most importantly, you may be connecting with someone who becomes a member of your tribe and helps your business to grow.
So don’t be shy, unleash the bee in you and get buzzing.
Thank you to Steve Lund for providing this gorgeous photo of one of our local bee.