Are you someone who dislikes networking? Do you dread talking to strangers?
If so, you’re not alone. It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re an introvert or extrovert, networking is hard for most people. So then why do we do it? As someone once said, networking is one letter away from not working. I wish I knew who coined that phrase so I could give him or her credit.
Even if you’re gainfully employed, networking is something you’ll have to do in your job if you attend conferences, association meetings or the company holiday party.
If you don’t have to attend any of those events, networking is still important for cultivating and growing your connections. That’s because, if you’re ever in the position of needing a new job you won’t have to start building your connections from scratch when you most need them. And, if you are a business owner or sales person, networking is vital to finding clients and growing your business.
Here are some tips I share in my networking trainings that my clients seem to really appreciate.
1. Be Prepared
If you can, find out who will be attending. Pick a few people you’d like to talk to and do some research on them by looking at their LinkedIn profile or googling them to see what comes up. This will make conversation easier.
Also, think about what you can talk about. If someone asks you how you are, don’t just say “fine” or “busy”, mention a project you’re working on that you’re excited about, a trip you recently went on or a hobby or activity you’re passionate about.
2. Be Bold
Remember, most people dislike networking, so put your imaginary bold hat on before you walk into the room. Imagine the hat gives you superpowers to talk to anyone. It would be a rare person that doesn’t appreciate you striking up a conversation with him. Don’t be a wallflower, make an effort to introduce yourself to others rather than waiting for people to approach you.
3. Be a Good Listener
The best conversationalists are the best listeners. They are the people who are curious and interested in others. So, think of questions you could ask someone. Once you’ve asked the usual question about what someone does for work or where they live, you could ask, “when you’re not doing _______ (whatever it is they do for their job) how do you like to spend your time?” This will give you a lot of information about the person which should make conversation easier. Be curious and interested without being nosy or personal.
4. Graciously End Conversations
One of the networking aspects I’m asked a lot about is how to end a conversation. A good conversation ender is made up of two parts – the excuse and the gracious close. These can go in either order. The excuse is the reason for ending the conversation such as “I’m going to freshen my drink”, just make sure your drink is really empty, or “I don’t want to keep you from mingling” or “I promised myself I would talk to three people tonight, I should keep mingling.” The gracious close is saying “It was nice talking to you.” You say that even if it wasn’t particularly pleasant talking to the person.
In mingling situations expect there to be a certain amount of people entering and exiting conversations, it’s just part of networking. So, don’t feel like you need to talk to one person throughout the event. Five to ten minutes per person is about normal for small talk.
Like anything, practice makes perfect. Get out there and use these tips. I promise your networking will get easier. You may even enjoy it eventually.
Are there things you do that make networking easier? If networking is hard for you, what is hardest about it?