‘It’s not what you know but who you know’ – never has this been a truer saying. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have made it easier than ever to target those in the know and the people who make the important decisions. But, many people just don’t know how to do it right.
Are you the person stuck in the corner of the room, trapped chatting to the same person for the duration of the event and leaving feeling dejected, like it was a waste of time or opportunities? You may have the knowledge and the expertise, but if you can’t connect with the right people, what’s the point?
Don’t worry! You can be the one circulating like a pro, making every meeting count and leaving with a fist full of business cards from the people that matter.
10. Are you attending the right events?
Who do you want to meet? Focus on the events where you are going to meet people who will help you. If you’re looking for a new job, identify those where you can meet potential employers. If you’re looking to sell a product or service, e.g. website design, don’t go to an event just for web designers. Identify who may need your service (e.g. bars and restaurants) and attend events where decision makers will be.
9. Entering the room
Enter the room with confidence: stand tall and scan the room to identify people you want to approach. Don’t rush straight for the sides or corners of the room; your underlying attitude is all-important as this is what you will be radiating. If you’re feeling self-conscious then maybe chat to the host to find out who is there. They may put you at ease and they may be able to introduce you.
8. Who to approach
Knowing which groups to approach can be the hardest part of networking. Look out for groups of three people who are facing out towards the room – these ‘open’ groups are the easiest to join.
And if you need further help in getting into an established group, see if there is a table nearby that you can put a drink down on. This should open at least one person up and you can start a conversation with them.
Avoid closed groups, the ones that have three or four people huddled closely together as these will be the least receptive to interruptions.
7. The Handshake
The handshake gives you an insight into what the other person is like. A firm (not too firm) handshake is sufficient but there are three handshakes you need to be careful about:
- Dominant – the finger/hand crusher, implies you’re boss and not going to listen to anyone else
- The ‘Wet Fish’ – limp and powerless, this suggests you’re a walk over and
- Double touch – grasping both hands or hand and arm together, this can seem over-familiar.
Don’t write someone off completely for giving you the ‘wet fish’ though – they may have a hand injury!
6. Remembering names
If you have a name badge, wear it high on the right side of your body which makes it easily visible to the other person to see. Listen carefully when the other person says their name and repeat it in the conversation as soon as you can, as it will help to cement it in your mind. Word association can also help; try linking their name to a well-known phrase or person. If all else fails, it’s ok to ask and much better than guessing their name!
5. Building rapport
So you’ve made your approach and you remember their name. How do you build rapport? It’s not so much about WHAT you say but HOW you say it. We get on with people who are most like us, so you need to concentrate on two things:
- Moving and gesturing in a similar way
- Matching the speed and pace of their voice
Don’t be too obvious about it, wait a couple of second before copying actions, but if you’re able to you’re able to do this, it will make more positive impact on them than what you’re actually saying.
4. Be interested before being interesting…
You will get the most out of networking if you listen to the other person and find out what you can do for them. Ask key questions to identify their needs:
- What makes a great customer for you?
- What sort of contacts are you looking for?
- Is there anyone I might know who could be useful to you?
Givers gain, so if you can help them first, they will be more likely to help you in return.
3. Moving on…
You have been chatting for a few minutes and you realise that this person isn’t able to help you… however don’t write people off straight away – they might be well connected with the people you want to meet.
If you’re in a group excuse yourself politely. If you’re with just one person it’s a bit trickier. Ask them to accompany you to the drinks table – you might lose them on the way, or find someone else to introduce them to while you’re there. If all else fails, it is socially acceptable now to tell them that you are there to network and would like to circulate more, wish them well and just move on.
2. Work on your social networking personality
These days your virtual presence is as important as your physical presence. Make sure that your Linked-In profile is 100 per cent completed and get people to recommend you, especially from outside of your employment – client recommendations are worth a lot. Linked-In is great for connecting with key decision makers too.
As for Facebook, check your privacy settings. If your settings are set to public, only upload photos and comments that you would be happy for a client to see. If in doubt, tighten your privacy or don’t add it.
1. Following up…
You have attended an event and chatted to and exchanged business cards with a potential new client/employer. What next?
Ask if it’s ok to send them an email or message via LinkedIn and don’t be too pushy about meeting up. Be persistent but don’t pester: ask how you can work TOGETHER and if they don’t reply, back off.
If you have been chatting about a specific subject, send a link to articles or websites of interest. Really personalise the approach – a handwritten letter with an article of interest makes a big impression – and it will have the stick factor.
For more on this, check out my TEDX presentation on Successful Networking…