Do you cringe at the thought of navigating a room full of strangers?
There’s no need to feel overwhelmed. Networking can actually be quite enjoyable and is not purely for the job seeker. It’s a great way to raise your profile beyond the office, build new connections, and gain insights into other fields and industry trends. Whether you love or hate small talk, networking has the great potential to lead to mutually-beneficial relationships that will open doors in the future. The seeds that you plant today can reap rewards tomorrow, so long as you follow these key steps inmaking each networking interaction meaningful:
1. USE A PERSON’S NAME WHEN SPEAKING TO THEM.
A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language. — Dale Carnegie, “How to Win Friends & Influence People”
If you forget a person’s name within a minute of having been introduced, you are not alone! With your brain being overloaded with a multitude of faces, name tags, handshakes, and professions, it’s only natural to lose track of information.
To help you recall names, try repeating the name as soon as you’ve heard it. If it’s unfamiliar,ask how you spell it (it also makes it easier to find them on LinkedIn afterwards). Throw their name tag a glance, to help you process it visually. Most importantly, be sure to repeat their name a few times… Repeat it when they introduce themselves to you, repeat it in your head, and drop it a few times in the conversation.
2. PRACTICE YOUR STORY… AND MAKE IT ENGAGING.
How good is your two-minute selling story?
Your tell-me-about-yourself story is not simply about describing your day job, but rather an opportunity to proclaim what makes you a passionate professional. Showcase your enthusiasm for your field by revealing what you love most about what you do. What gives you a sense of achievement in this field? What are your career aspirations? Your elevator pitch segways into a deeper conversation that gives you a chance to further build your narrative. Deliver it with confidence and be memorable enough to set yourself apart from other networkers.
Tip: Try including 3 unique aspects or experiences that you’re confident will distinguish you from everyone else.
3. BE GENUINELY CURIOUS.
The key to meaningful networking is to be genuinely curious about the other person’s story. Engage in their story as an empathetic listener — go beyond vocal fillers (“Oh yeah?”, “Really?”, “Wow”) and ask questions to encourage details. Showing a real interest in what others have to say will make you truly unforgettable to that person, and they will be more likely to be truly interested in your story.
Whether or not it feels like pointless small talk or an insightful conversation is up to you — so treat it just as you would if you were catching up with an old friend.
4. ALWAYS FOLLOW UP.
A common post-networking event mistake is not following up with your new contacts. Yet, this is where the real value of a networking event comes in. Always reconnect with your new contact on LinkedIn or via e-mail within a few days of initially meeting. Want to make a great impression? Personalize the message. Replace the auto-generated “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” message with a personal note, perhaps recalling a detail from your face-to-face conversation. You have 200 characters to work with; make it memorable and representative of you.
Networking doesn’t have to be daunting. Trying out these 4 tips will ease you into better networking and help make each interaction a positive, fruitful experience. Most importantly, remember that networking can be a lot of fun! You’ll make new friends, gain insights, and at the very least, become a better conversationalist.