Success at Networking Events: 5 keys to a great impression
By Rachel Wagner
We've all been there--you're at a business event and you're supposed to float around the room with a dazzling smile making brilliant conversation. But the idea of introducing yourself and making small talk with perfect strangers is enough to make your palms sweat and your knees weak.
For most people, networking is a learned behavior, like learning to swim. It is gradual--yet painful and even scary at times. But, with a little practice, it becomes easier and easier, until confidence overtakes the fear.
Here are five tips you can use to develop the skills you need to maximize attending these events—and even have fun!
1. Practice a self-introduction. In the mirror at home, simply say something like this: "Hello, I'm Bill Smith, manager at XYZ Company. Do you mind if I join you?"
2. Learn to approach and join a conversation group. ook for a group of 3-4 people, smile and make eye contact with one person. Approach the group, extend your hand for a handshake, and introduce yourself (using the introduction you've practiced at home!). Those in the group will then extend their hand to you for a handshake and introduce themselves. Expert tip: Arrive early to the event. It's easier to approach a group when the room is not crowded.
3. Focus the conversation on the other person. Ask open-ended questions that can't be answered with a simple yes or no. For example, "What did you think of the keynote speaker this morning?" Also, you'll always be able to contribute to an ongoing conversation if you're well read and keep up with news, sports, and a little bit of pop culture. Avoid texting and taking calls on your cell phone during conversations.
4. Use the person's name in conversation. This not only helps you to remember the person's name, but it shows respect to the other person and makes you look good. After all, everyone enjoys hearing the sound of his or her own name.
5. Follow up. You may come away with a couple of business cards from new connections. Follow up with a brief e-mail the next day to say how great it was to meet and chat. Try to include a beneficial link or attachment--something related to your conversation that will be helpful to the other person. You will stand out and be remembered.
When you refine and practice your networking skills, you will overcome the fear of meeting and mingling, and you will showcase yourself as a polished professional.
Rachel Wagner is a certified corporate etiquette and international protocol consultant and founder of the business etiquette firm, Rachel Wagner Etiquette and Protocol. She trains leadership teams on the topics of business and dining etiquette to polish their professional presence and the image of their company. Rachel is active with the American Society for Training and Development and the National Speaker’s Association. She is author of a popular e-zine, The Savvy Professional, and is frequently quoted in the media. She can be reached by phone at 918.970.4400 or by email at Rachel@EtiquetteTrainer.com. Website: www.EtiquetteTrainer.com.