Whatever industry you’re in, networking can play an important part in career success. The web has made it easier than ever to connect and maintain contact with useful connections, but it’s still not a substitute for building relationships in a more traditional, face-to-face manner.
Attending industry/networking events can be an intimidating prospect but it often provides invaluable opportunities to meet like-minded individuals and forge potentially fruitful relationships.
If you find the idea of walking into a room of strangers an intimidating thought, here are six top tips to help you network more confidently and effectively.
1. Use existing contacts
If you have inside contacts at the event, make sure you use them. Ask for personal introductions wherever possible as it is much easier to meet new connections through a mutual contact.
2. Have a clear focus
Go to an event with a clear purpose and maybe even set yourself some loose targets. Perhaps aim to speak to three potential new clients or to someone from a particular organisation.
3. Be bold and go alone
Although it can be preferable to attend functions/conferences/industry events as part of a group or with a colleague, this can sometimes be inhibiting. You may feel more comfortable sticking with people you know, but it may prevent you from branching out and talking to other people or even make you less easy to approach.
4. Good body language
Be aware of your body language. Do you appear open, approachable and ready to engage with people? Folding your arms and avoiding eye contact will certainly make you appear closed and inaccessible, so make sure you’re giving off friendly, positive vibes in the way you carry yourself.
5. Break the ice
Don’t wait for people to approach you, get out there and introduce yourself in an assertive, but friendly manner. Make sure you have your ‘elevator pitch’ (i.e. a short summary about what you do, your business etc.) at the forefront of your mind so you can quickly and easily engage people in conversation.
6. Give and take
Good networking is all about mutual interest and mutual benefit. Make sure you are genuinely listening and responding to the people you meet rather than talking at them. Work out what you could do for them as well as what they could do for you and help make other introductions where you can.