Folding a contour sheet recently, a tricky task but a do-able one, make me think of networking.
Stay with me as I explain.
The contour sheet had just come out of the dryer, so I was folding it (and the rest of the sheet set) so my awesome cleaning lady could make up the guest room bed when she arrived. (I was expecting visitors that weekend.) Sure, I could have just plopped the dry sheets in a heap on the guest bed and let her go from there, but that would seem rude and messy. That’s not how I roll. Whether I’m at home or on the road, I tidy up for whoever is going to clean my house or my hotel room. It’s an act of thoughtfulness and respect that makes the cleaning person’s job easier and more effective.
The same principle applies to networking. A little upfront preparing and tidying can make all the difference. Here are some ideas on how to do that:
- Stop clinging & hiding. It’s so safe and tempting (and I’ve done it): clinging to your colleagues or existing friends when you enter a room filled with people you don’t know. The only worse offense is plopping yourself in a corner or at a table where you aren’t in circulation. Both are surefire ways to meet no one. Get up and move around. It’s called “mixing and mingling” for a reason!
- Be brave and make the first move. Go on up to someone standing alone, smile, and introduce yourself, start a conversation. (See 6. below.)
- Make yourself more approachable. No one will want to approach and meet you if you exude a sour, stressed-out or closed-off presence. Fire up (or calm down) before an event. Listen to your favorite music. Smile. Relax. Remind yourself how awesome you are and how much fun you’re going to have. Even more specifically…
- Prepare to be your Best Self. What prep work can you do in advance and on a regular basis to ensure you show up as your best, most authentic self? Get a good night’s sleep. Exercise. Meditate. Wear your favorite outfit. Love on your kids, dog, or parakeet. Read something inspiring. Write in a gratitude journal. Listen to a funny podcast. Have a quick chat with your best friend.
- Say your name clearly when introducing yourself. Why do we mumble or blurt out our names like they’re an afterthought or unimportant? What’s up with this? Practice saying your name clearly and slower-than-usual when introducing yourself. Repeat it if necessary (and without seeming to be inconvenienced because you’ve been asked to do so). Go a step further and offer a point of reference for saying your name properly or for remembering it. (“It’s DeNucci, which rhymes with Gucci or Pucci.” “It’s Brooklyn, like the city.”)
- Gather, memorize, and road test some good conversation-generating questions. Some examples; How’d you hear about this event? Have you ever attended one of these before? What do you do when you’re not here / working / attending these events? Tell me, how did you end up doing the work you do? You can do an online search for conversation-starting questions that will really help you stand out from the crowd.
- Remember that conversation is about balance. Both people in a conversation should be ready to talk – and listen. If you tend to talk a lot, try staying silent or keep your responses to questions brief. If you tend to be quiet and shy, try talking a little more. And remember that no one has ever complained about someone who is a good listener!
- Know what you want out of your conversations and networking experience(s). I’m amazed at how few people take the time to think about this. Chapter 2 of my book The Intentional Networker offers some strategic guidance here. And I’m working on a book that will help you even more! Knowing what you want is the first step to getting it. (And if making a sale or getting a job is your answer here – whew! – we need to talk!)
- Ask others what they want / need. Generosity and helpfulness are keystones to great networking. The great Zig Ziglar said that the way to get what you want is to help other people get what they want.
That ought to get you started. Or generate more questions. What other networking prep work could you do to feel more comfortable and confident — and to make it easier for others to meet and network with you? If you’re stumped, that’s okay and perfectly normal. I’d be happy to help you, your team, your conference participants, or your organization connect and converse more naturally, effectively, and authentically.
Contact me at patti[at]intentionalnetworker[dot]com and let’s talk about where you are now and where you’d like to be. You can click here to learn more.