Be the one that makes the good connections.
Don't be a wallflower at your next meet-and-greet. Here are nine ways to network effectively at your next event.
Arrive early. You’ll find people are more approachable then when it’s calmer, and it’s less likely there will be any cliques. It may also provide a good opportunity to chat with the organisers, who may help you connect with others during the event.
Making proper connections takes time, so don’t be too quick about your conversations. Keep them going for at least five minutes if you can. Though get out if the person starts to look disengaged or you feel the chat’s getting tedious.
Tip: When leaving, avoid saying that you’re “just popping to the toilet” because it’s pretty much code for “I’m bored and I want out”. Think of something better like: “It was nice meeting you, will you excuse me while I just say hello to a friend? Maybe we can chat again later.” It’ll demonstrate that you’re socially aware, considerate and honest.
Make sure you don’t go too hard with sales-y chat – you’ll scare people off and may come across as desperate. Try to get to know them on a personal level first before discussing any business.
Tip: Wait until you’re asked before handing out business cards.
Creating stimulating small talk is key. Yes this may seem like an oxymoron, but if you can engage in conversation that incites interest then you’ll stand out. While there is no set recipe for this, a good strategy is to fish for commonalities (what suburb they live in, what university they attended) then navigate the conversation around them.
It’s important to get the message across about what you do, although wait until you’re prompted. When talking about your role, try and subtly (and that means subtly) reference a recent success story. You might mention, for example, that you designed the website for a renowned local restaurant, or that you just acquired a well-known boutique as a PR client. This will help solidify what they call in business circles your “personal brand”.
If there is one golden rule to networking, it’s to show interest in other people, so ask questions about what others do, and the things they are passionate about.
Make sure you’re not scanning the room for someone better to talk to, or looking at your phone. Keep good eye contact, listen actively to what is being said and interact with the conversation.
Tip: To show you’re engaged, repeat their name during the conversation.
Within a few days of meeting someone, send them a nice-to-meet-you-type email and maybe follow up on something you talked about. This will help solidify the connection.
Add them on Linked In, too. Though hold off on Facebook or Instagram until a friendship develops.
Tip: After speaking to someone, note down three memorable things about them on your phone or on their business card, like “based in Canberra, likes skiing, specialises in website design”. This will help fuel conversations the next time you chat.
Once you have formed a new connect, don’t just wait for things to happen. Be the one who reaches out first to assist them if they’re looking for help, or engage with their social-media posts. People are naturally reciprocal, so it may help you down the track.
Over time, look to make the connection deeper by inviting them for coffee or lunch, just like you would with a friend. Again, proper connections take time, so don’t rush it.
Always thank those who help you out. If you don’t show appreciation, you’ll get people offside very quickly.