Friday, June 30, 2017
When you have decided you should start networking or become a more efficient and successful networker you can, and probably should, make it easier for yourself and also increase the chances of success by making solid and thoughtful preparations.
These preparations include everything from mindset down to details such as dress code and nice business cards.
First out is your mentality. If you have a negative or skeptical mindset you need to address that. Being positive and self-confident goes a far way when it comes to being an attractive person to communicate and spending time with. If you are positive that will have an impact also on the people you meet, they will feel good about themselves and associate that feeling with you and right there half the job is done.
Another factor is to be open-minded, all the time. If you don’t give other people a chance you will always be on the loosing side, and it doesn’t matter whom you speak with. If you shut the door, or even hint at shutting the door, in their face they will feel it and immediately take a step back from you, which mean you have lost a good opportunity to meet and interact with another person.
You should also work on getting a positive and curious attitude, learn how to show genuine interest in other people and learn how to be an efficient communicator. It is not as hard as it sounds, try to focus on the positives around you, find interesting questions to ask and you are on your way to become a much more interesting person to speak with.
Having made these kinds of mental preparations will also help you handle the fear you might have for a networking situation. By creating a positive script and have thought through questions you will feel more at ease and be able to handle the fear that is so common when we enter new situations.
Needless to say it matters a lot for networking where you intend to do it and who you can expect to be there.
Adapting to other people is very important. There are many different cultures, educations, professions and interests out there. You have to understand how to deal with these differences if you want to become an efficient networker. If you fail to acknowledge the inter-human differences you are running the risk of becoming a liability for the community you are active in.
This doesn’t mean you should deny who you are and how you feel but rather you should bring out the parts of your being that match the setting you are in and try to be a bit careful when doing so. Eventually you will know more about the environment you are in and then you will be able to let more of yourself out.
Is It A Professional Networking- Or A Social Networking-Event?
When looking into what kind of event you are considering the question of whether it is a professional or a social networking event will be important. Many events might look like professional events but in reality it is professionals who are socializing with each other rather than people networking for professional reasons and your expectations should be set accordingly. It is usually much easier to get to the point regarding a professionally related topic at a clearly stated professional event but on the other hand you are usually able to build a much stronger relationship with professionals when you meet them socially.
What Are Your Reasons For Networking?
Finding your way to the right networking event and having a good and prosperous time at that networking event depends on your reasons for networking in the first place and why networking is important for you.
Some brutal honesty is in place here. Do you plan to network because you need it for your business or career, or because your boss has told you to do so? Maybe you attend networking events under a disguise of professionalism while in reality your core reasons are entirely social – you want to make and meet friends, have a good time in general and have no problem staying on for that extra hour or even continue the night down town?
The honest answers to these questions should be factored in when you decide which events to attend and also how you act at these events. Otherwise you might miss your target altogether and will be doing so under a cloud of general boredom.
The question of who will attend a certain event is rather easy to answer today as social media and previous events are widely published and might also present you with the opportunity to introduce yourself to other guests before actually meeting them. If you introduce yourself online before the event you will have the advantage of being remembered more easily when you actually do meet the other guests at the event and that is a key success-factor for successful networking.
If you cannot find the appropriate event information online you can of course place an email or a call to the organizers and ask them, but keep in mind they most likely will exaggerate the number, seniority and status of the expected guests.
An elevator pitch is a short story about yourself, your business or something else that is important for you and that you want to communicate to somebody else. It is called elevator pitch because you are supposed to be able to finish the story during a short ride in an elevator.
Having one, or several, prepared pitches about you can be a good way to feel more secure. You will have thought through who you are and what you want to achieve and you will be prepared to communicate that message. Make sure they are interesting and easy to remember.
And please don’t think this is something odd, many people do this and the more successful they are the more time they spend on messaging. Just consider politicians, businesses executives and others – they have whole teams working on their messages.
If you know some of the potential guests it might of course be a good idea to meet up prior to the event and have a little pre chat where you also have the opportunity to meet some other newcomers in a relaxed setting before you attend the main event together.
Having one or several wingmen at your side at the event will make you feel more secure and thus make it more easy for you to initiate contact with new people as you will always have your wingmen to fall back on. Some people even bring somebody totally taken out of context just to have a fall back friend at the event.
The event venue matters in many ways for networking. It is not just about finding the way there; it is also about what is around. Are there other venues in the area that can be used for pre-drinks, dinner, relaxed after-talks, do you know somebody working at the venue? Have you been there before, where can you park your car, can you eat there, are there several rooms, loud music or an opportunity to stay on after the event is over?
The community culture can be a challenge for newcomers to any event. Sometimes events are attended by a tight-knit community where everybody at least appears to know each other inside out and then it might feel like an obstacle for you to break into conversations and finding your way at the event. Sometimes the appearance of a tight-knit community is only a fiction as people act like they known each other since childhood but in reality they have just seen each other a few times before. This is very hard for you to know in advance though.
The same challenge is presented by the professional cultures at various events. Industry oriented events might feel very introvert and the guests are happy to use their most extreme professional jargon to further emphasize how important and special they are. If you realise the event is such an event and you are not a party to the industry in question you might just call it a day and leave instead of bouncing your head against the wall while looking like a fool.
Other cultural factors are age, strictness, mono- or multi-culture and gender division. Sometimes you will unfortunately find that some events are near fake as they might market themselves as for “senior management” while in reality all those seniors have sent their assistants in their place and whoever you speak with will have almost no decision-making power at their respective companies.
At any event special consideration should be given to the event host. Try to find out who is the host of the event and connect with him or her prior to the event by a short message or similar – which will make it easier for them to remember you. The host is most likely the most networked person at the event and therefore a key person to reach out to and say a few words to so he or she remember you. You should also reconnect with the host before you leave the event and say a few words of gratitude. As very few event guests do this simple thing you will stick out from the mass and increase the chances of being remembered in a positive way many times over.
All events have a dress code. That is just a fact; the question is just if it is stated officially or an unspoken part of the event culture.
Using the dress code to your advantage can mean that you will be noticed in a positive way immediately as you enter the event and that will save you a lot of time. There are plenty of good examples of people who have used this technique – on purpose or not – to their advantage. Colors, hairstyle, clothing and accessories can all be used to achieve this effect.
A word of caution when using the peacock approach – try not to look like you are from a galaxy far, far away as that might do more damage than good. There are costume parties where you can live out your wildest fantasies.
And, of course, before you dress up you might want to look at photos from previous events so you know in which direction you should stick out.
The peacock approach carries a risk so if you are not ready for it, or feel threatened by the very idea, you should try to fit in with the group instead of sticking out of it.
Is there a program for the event and certain activities that will take place? The event schedule can have an impact on when you should arrive, what if you are there to meet people but arrive at a time when casual conversations are obstructed by a program? Try to find out as much as possible before the event and ask the organisers – they surely know the flow of the event regardless of whether it has an official program or not.
It is not very easy to attend an event where you don’t master the language spoken. If you need – bring a friend or a colleague that knows the event language. Surely some people at the event will speak one or several of the more international languages but whom they are and which international language they speak might be harder to find out. One advantage of being the odd alien is that you are likely to attract attention and might even be specially taken care of by other guests or the host. Most event organisers like to boast that their events are international.
Always Have a Good Time
Don’t get stuck being tense or over-focused. Try to relax, smile and have a good time. Whatever your reason for networking is your attitude will have an impact on your chances of achieving your goal – and of just having a good time at the event.
Print nice and easy to understand business cards. Make sure all relevant details are there but don’t add too much information. The business card should be easy to read in a short time. You can apply the peacock theory also on your business card and make it stick out so you will easier be remembered but, again, it is a risk and it might backfire.
Read the full article about preparation for networking and more about how to become successful at networking.
Founder of Fryday, An International Network Of Professionals
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Fryday is organizing several types of networking events and provide social and professional networking in cities across the world.