How to be Brilliant at Networking

Most people’s worst nightmare is walking into a room full of strangers and having to “network”.  We tend to think that more extraverted people find it easier, but in fact they find it as nerve-wracking as more introverted people.  But it needn’t be an ordeal – it’s something that you can enjoy if you have the right mindset and are prepared.  Here are some general tips followed by tips tailored for each style.

TIPS FOR ALL

Manage your mindset

Mind and body are linked, so banish any negative thoughts (“No-one will want to talk to me…”) and replace them with positive thoughts (“I’m curious about who will be there…”).  Your positive emotions will come across in your body language, facial expression and tone of voice, and you will create a better impression.

Be prepared

Know what the event is about and who is likely to be there.  If you have previously met, remind yourself of what you talked about last time.  Set yourself an achievable target (eg to make three new connections) and don’t feel you have to work the whole room.

Practise your introduction

We don’t often say our own names out loud, so practise saying your name and a short simple sentence that describes what you do or where you work.   When you have introduced yourself, pause, they will most likely introduce themselves, and you can take the conversation on from there (“that’s interesting, can you tell me more about that……”).

Build rapport

When you meet people, you only have a few seconds to get their attention and they are already making up their minds about you.  Behave as if you are confident (even if you don’t feel it) – make eye contact, smile, speak clearly.  Repeat their name (so you remember it) and use their name when you speak to them.

Ask questions and listen

Most people like talking about themselves, so ask open questions beginning with what and how, to develop the conversation.  Make affirming statements and build connections (“I’ve heard good things about…..I know someone who works there….”).  Avoid surreptitiously looking around the room to see who might be more interesting to talk to – they will notice!

Offer help

We sometimes think that the purpose of networking is to get something for ourselves, but a more helpful approach is to think of it as an opportunity to do something for someone else.  Offer ideas and suggestions, introduce them to other people you know – they will remember you for helping them and might reciprocate in future.

Move on

Remember that networking events are for networking.  Don’t stay too long with one person – find an appropriate point in the conversation to move on and leave on a positive note (“it’s been interesting talking to you…..I’ll let you move on……I’ll drop you an email….I’ll look you up on Linkedin….”).

After the event

Make notes of who you met, their main interests, and the topics you discussed, so you can refer to them next time you meet.  Think how you might develop the contact further – do you have some information they might be interested in, can you pass on an article or a link to them, how can you connect with them again?  As a minimum, invite them to join your Linkedin network, and personalise the connection request (“it was good meeting you at….”).

 

TIPS FOR EACH STYLE

It is easier to build rapport with people who are more like ourselves.  A good way to build rapport is to match the physical energy of the person with whom you are communicating.  If they are coming across as animated and energetic, or calm and reserved, then matching their speed and tone of voice, their facial expressions, hand gestures and body posture, is useful (though not so much that they think you are mocking them).  Generally, we do this mirroring and matching unconsciously – you can often tell that other people are in rapport if their body language matches.

As well as being aware of their style, think about your own style and what else you can do to help yourself be brilliant at networking.  Here are some tips tailored for each style.

 

  BEFORE DURING ENDING
NAVIGATOR Plan what you will say and questions you might ask

 

Show warmth, smile, make eye contact, relax End on a positive note “it’s been great meeting you…”
MOBILISER Remind yourself to focus on the people there rather than the task of networking

 

Pay attention, ask questions and show you are listening Make people feel they matter to you, don’t be impatient to move on
ENERGISER Calm down, breathe deeply to help you slow down

 

Say less and listen more, avoid looking around the room Tell them if/when you will be in touch – and do it.
SYNTHESISER Practise introducing yourself in a confident tone of voice

 

Speak up and say more to contribute to the discussion Move on decisively, don’t hang around

 

For more information on the four styles, read a short overview here or see How to Get On with Anyone

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