Networking 101: How to Succeed Socially (Part 1)
Whether you have a personal brand, run a business, or would like to advance your career, you need networking skills. It's an important tool in marketing yourself. Networking helps to build your network and keep you connected. The possibilities of a strong network are endless. For the outgoing extrovert, social settings are a breeze. For the shy introvert, it could seem intimidating and send you into a mini-panic attack. Relax and breathe easy. I'm here to help. In an effort to not overload you with TMI, I'm going to do a couple of posts with key points on each post.
Networking can take you from the back of the line to the front. Ever wonder how someone always seems to know the who's who in every field? Or how the unqualified intern somehow got bumped up into a manager position? I bet they knew how to work the room, get to the right people, and develop key relationships. There's always some business conference, after-work event, or gala that will allow you to be in a room with very influentual people. It's important that you take advantage of those opportunities and add to your digital rolodex. If you're inexperienced, with a little knowledge and practice, you'll be a pro before you know it. Here are 5 tips to get you started:
Look your best. When you look your best, you feel good, and it gives you a certain confidence. More often than not, people have an idea about who you are before you even open your mouth. Don’t show up to a networking event in jeans and sneakers or a dress meant for after midnight and expect anyone to be impressed. Pull out your best suit, dress, and make sure you look polished from your hair down to your shoes. When you walk in, you want people to think, "Who is that?" and not "Why are they here?"
Smile. A smile is your best accessory. It makes people feel warm, welcomed, and relaxed. The last thing you want to do is seem unapproachable or like you’re not happy to be there. I don't care if you had the worst day or if your boyfriend/girlfriend just broke your heart. Pull it together, turn that frown upside down, and radiate a positive, magnetic aura. And if you’re insecure about your smile, smile anyway. Remember, you care about your flaws way more than anyone else does. For people to want to stay in touch with you, they have to like you. Be a function favorite by having good conversation, being social, and putting on your best smile.
Put down the phone, make eye contact, and be engaged. Pay attention and ask questions. Do not daydream and absolutely do not get on your phone. In the past, I’ve been in situations where my mind has wandered off and the person I was talking to asked for feedback. You don’t want to look like a deer caught in headlights and respond with, “Huh? Uhhh….” You’ll be busted. Ask questions about who they are and what they said. Speak clearly and confidently. Most importantly, leave the improper English at the door no matter how laid-back the person you're talking to seems to be.
Let them speak. Don’t take over the conversation. Many people have a habit of finishing others’ sentences or interrupting. Some people may not be able to find their train of thought or ramble and you might be thinking, “Get to the point” or “Let me help them finish their thought because this is taking forever.” I am the queen of “Just say it!” in my personal life but in a professional environment, especially where you’re trying to network and set a good impression, this is a no-no. Interrupting is rude and you may be trying to finish someone’s sentence but they don’t want you to. You may not even be finishing it correctly. So take a deep breath, relax, and listen.
Remember the names of everyone you meet. It helps to research who you’d like to meet before you even get there. Who’s hosting the event? Who are the sponsors? The speakers? The VIPs? You could be washing your hands in the bathroom and standing next to the president at the company of your dream job and not even know it. In a different scenario, you could be out and about and run into that executive that you had a great conversation with. You’ll want to remember what their name is for future reference. When someone remembers my name, I’m impressed and know that they value who I am. If you have to, ask for the person to remind you. They won't take offense to it, I promise. It’s better to ask than to not know.
These are some pointers to get you started. There are events galore this week in Metro Detroit so go out, network, and leave a great impression. Be confident and work that room. Visit our Facebook page to stay current on the latest marketing news, tips, and information about SMMG.