Many people cringe at the thought of attending networking events where they have to introduce themselves to a group of complete strangers.
The reality is that networking is an essential part of being a business professional whether you run a company or work for one. Tips on networking go as far back as 1936 with Dale Carnegie's book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Every time you meet someone, it becomes an opportunity to establish or reinforce your brand and to make an impression. It is also a valuable opportunity to listen and learn.
Networking can also be a helpful and inexpensive way of recruiting talent. When people see you as polished, professional, and personable, they will want to find out more about what you do, where you do it, and why.
Within a company, events, conferences, and town hall meetings are networking opportunities to gain insights about what others do and projects they are working on that may give you valuable information to support one of your initiatives.
Here are five tips to help you shake the shackles of those dreaded networking jitters:
1. Have your elevator speech ready. Know how you'd like to introduce yourself in both a 30 second and in a two minute speech. Tailor your introduction to your audience. If you've met the person before, tweak it accordingly. Be clear, succinct, smile, and make eye contact when you speak.
No matter what event you're at, if you are struggling to come up with something to say when approaching an individual, try: "May I join you?" or "Hi, my name is.... What brought you here today?"
2. Keep the electronic device stowed away. Unless you are scanning someone's contact information or booking a follow-up meeting with them, now isn't the time to check email. Be present for the opportunity that networking offers.
3. Listen more than you speak. After you've introduced yourself, listening intently to the other person is a sign of respect and demonstrates that you're interested in what they have to say. Striking the right balance is important. Networking is a combination of talking and listening; sharing to create a positive, lasting impression. It involves dialogue to facilitate ways to help one another through information exchange.
4. Avoid arriving late. Even though it might feel awkward to arrive early, it is a calmer and more relaxed environment where you can get the lay of land and people haven't formed conversation groups yet. When you arrive late, it can be more challenging to break into a group of people who already are deeply engaged in conversation.
5. Follow up. Networking simply starts a new conversation. When you've had a great connection, make a point of following up via LinkedIn, a phone call, or email to continue the dialogue. If possible, try to make this follow-up contact within 48 hours of your initial introduction.
For more tips like these or for ideas to incorporate into employee communications, please contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.