24 Tricks for Terrible Networkers (or How to Meet Anyone Anywhere)
-- Margaret, Florida
1. Be a giver
Part of the awkward and uncomfortable feelings around networking result from being self-conscious.
If you're more focused on learning about the person you're talking to, you don't have time to stress over whether you sound stupid or if you have lettuce in your teeth. Ask the question, "What do you need next? How can I support you?" You'll feel more powerful and find common ground.
2. Do your homework
Do some research on the attendees beforehand, if you can. That way, you can prepare for the event in much the same way you'd prepare for a job or informational interview. Draw up a list of questions specific to the people you'll likely be speaking with. This will not only ease your anxiety, but will also help you establish strong, authentic connections.
3. Quality over quantity, always
What is your desired outcome? If you don't know the answer to that, you'll never achieve it. The idea isn't to hand out the most business cards. The idea is to have the most meaningful conversations. Instead of having the goal of meeting everyone there, try targeting a select few people and have longer more meaningful conversations rather than worrying about who to talk to next.
4. Use the internet to alleviate networking anxiety
If you're afraid or uncomfortable with networking, then use the internet to find people who share your interests and slowly move that relationship offline. The internet allows you to meet people in the comfort of your home, which will alleviate networking stress and time from your already busy entrepreneurship schedule.
5. Listen and learn
Rather than start a conversation talking about yourself, why not show a curiosity in others, and listen first? Let them start talking about their projects and work experience, and pay attention to what they do to make you feel at ease and engaged. Reflect on that after the event and apply what you noticed next time you start a convo!
6. The power of the short and simple pitch
Develop a short and simple introduction pitch that describes what you do and why you do it. It should give someone a quick and easy idea of the features and benefits of your company. Practice makes perfect. Repeat your brand statement often to friends, colleagues and new associates. Put it into action at your next event and proudly share your vision with confidence.
7. The silver bullet
The Silver Bullet is hard work. Practice, Practice, Practice makes perfect. Look at the people who you admire with networking capabilities, what do you like about them? Can you practice doing those things? The best book to read on this topic was written 100 years ago by Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People. They even have live classes that you can take to practice networking.
8. Make it a game
Try turning the networking experience into a game. Go with a friend, and then set challenges for each other. "I challenge you to go up and introduce yourself to that closed-off group of people." "I challenge you to get that guy's business card." Etc. It's amazing how something so simple can take the pressure off and allow you to be yourself, but also creative in your approach to networking.
9. Make people feel great
Take Maya Angelou's advice and remember that after the event, most people probably won't remember what you do or what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel. Make them feel great about themselves, their business and what they do and you'll have made the all-important first connection, upon which you can build.
10. Change your mindset
Rather than talking about yourself and constantly thinking "What can this person do for me?" re-frame the experience completely. Make it a goal to meet cool people, and help them in anyway possible through your business or contacts, and develop long lasting friendships. The benefits, even though they may be months or years down the line, will follow.
11. What is your desired outcome?
Be intentional about networking. Entrepreneurs don't have time or patience for small talk. We want to dig into your soul and discover who you are within five minutes of meeting you. And we want you to do the same with us. Know what you want from each person you approach, and be forward about it. If they can't or aren't willing to help, say, "It was nice meeting you" and move on.
12. It's only the beginning
Remember when you step into the event, it's only the beginning. The end goal (of the event) is not to ink a deal, but to put yourself in a position where you can connect with that person again at a less crowded, less noisy future date. That means you have to follow-up and keep showing up. Be of a service mindset. Listen to their story and think about who in your network they should meet.
13. Be something memorable
Part of creating your personal brand is coming up with that "thing" that makes people remember you. When networking you want it to be the same way. Maybe it's the tie you wear or the sneakers with the suit. Or maybe it is a specific conversation you want to have. But just be you. Then when you followup, you can have an instant conversation starter based on your memorable action or trait.
14. Don't think about networking at a networking event
The best way to create anything meaningful at an event is to cut off all thoughts that you'll be "networking" with people. That will stress you out and make you nervous. Focus on being EXACTLY who you are, always offer a helpful suggestion to others ("have you thought of X to improve Y?") and listen as much as you can. People love to talk about themselves so listening will get you in good books.
15. Introverts must be more creative
If you're less of a face-to-face networker and more of an introvert, it's difficult to make those one-on-one connections with others. That's why you have to get creative to make an impact. Design a business card that demands attention, wear something memorable, or even do something out of the ordinary that will leave people talking.
16. Get in the game
You can't hit a home run from the bench. Be proactive and start conversations with others. Ask open-ended questions, people love nothing more than talking about themselves. Balance your time carefully between listening and talking. Most importantly, follow-up with the connections made to the transform an initial meeting to a long lasting business relationship.
17. Follow up to get through
There are lot of great verbal seductionists out there, but the first and best way to separate talk from talent is follow up. Few people go the extra step to deliver on their promises or even just send a friendly note. The common story is getting "caught up" or having "no time." But uncommon individuals makes time for networking with the understanding that action is more important than words.
18. It just takes one
For many people, networking events can be overwhelming. Letting yourself focus on just meeting one new person at an event can be enough, especially if you're having difficulties making connections with everyone present. Ideally, you can check up on who will be at the next event beforehand, so you can choose that one perfect person, but even if you can't, one good connection is worth your time.
If you're putting to much pressure on yourself to yield a specific outcome, you might rob yourself of an opportunity to have fun, practice the art of conversation and get to know people. Start with a smile! You'd be surprised at how far it takes you. From there, focus on asking the other person questions that get *them* to smile -- it will leave a memorable mark and you'll build real connections.
20. Attend events where you feel comfortable for the best networking results
It may be time to re-think where you spend your time. Networking can happen anywhere-I've met potential clients at grocery stores, photocopy centers, coffee shops and parties. Choose a few events such as a sports team or an arts group where you really enjoy yourself and then as you build relationships with people, you can naturally share with them about what you do.
21. Set a measurable goal
Instead of going into an event with the mere desire of "networking," set a clear goal of what you're hoping to achieve out of attending. Do you aim to meet three new people at the event? Do you want to connect with a certain type of individual? If you cannot come up with a measurable goal, perhaps the event is not worth your time.
22. Don't try so hard
I hate it when I'm at an event and I meet someone who's trying to sell me on something. I like meeting authentic people. Don't worry too much about pitching your business at these events. Just meet and mingle, talk about whatever is interesting, and leave with a business card. That's it.
23. Know whom to meet
Before each event look at the list of people attending and figure out who you want to meet. At small events you can easily find the organizer, if you know whom it is, who knows everyone and can continue to point you in the right direction. Even reach out beforehand via email or twitter so the first introduction isn't as awkward.
24. Remember names
I'm terrible at remembering names, but if I practice before and after any event, I do a much better job next time I see the person and it leave an impression on them by simply calling them by their first name. I read somewhere this was George W. Bush's secret to power and I have to tell you it works.
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