Do you ever find yourself in front of a stranger at a networking group, not really sure what to do next?
While networking events may go on for hours, these first few minutes with any one person are the most important. This is your chance to make a positive first impression and create the foundation for a long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationship.
Here are seven things that will get you over your nerves and on to a successful potential partnership.
- Start with a good handshake. Firm, without being a bone crusher. You definitely don’t want to be a limpy fish. Look the person in the eye and smile when you shake their hand.
- Speak slowly and face the other person. Don’t be looking around the room. They deserve your full attention because you’re trying to build a relationship with them.
- Give before you receive. Instead of instantly talking about who you are and what you do, encourage dialogue from the other person. Be inquisitive – nosy even – to ignite a spark that makes them feel comfortable to share more details with you.
- Hold back. What you should never do right away is shove your business card or resume into someone’s hands. That is not how to build a relationship.
- Be sensitive. Watch for cues from the other person so you don’t take them out of their comfort zone. For example, if someone is more introverted they may prefer to stay in a particular part of the room, or in close proximity to the people they came with. Be aware of personal space.
- Inject some humour. This can put yourself and the other person at ease, and can be as simple as a lighthearted comment about the weather. Alternatively, tell a joke if that feels natural to you.
- Repeat the person’s name a few times. People love to hear their own name, and it helps you remember it as well. (Hint: If you ever have trouble remembering people’s faces and names, make a few notes on their business card before you move on to meet the next person.)
Practicing these seven tips can improve your confidence and results at networking events. When you make the most of your first two minutes with each new person, those minutes add up and help you grow a stronger network.