Most people like the idea of networking more than actually networking. If we’re honest, introducing ourselves to strangers can be awkward and challenging at times. We have compiled some best practices for approaching individuals at an event.
Nothing, though, can replace a confident body posture and positive attitude. Stand tall and smile. Similar to athletics, your attitude affects your performance. Be confident and mentally prepare yourself to meet new people. Set a goal if that helps motivate you to step outside your comfort zone. Also like athletics, the more you practice (or attend networking functions), the more comfortable you’ll feel.
Things to keep in mind about networking:
- Networking is not about selling yourself in a self-promotional monologue. It’s about developing relationships with those you meet
and maintaining existing connections. This takes the pressure off because you no longer have to think about you; you can focus on them. Listen and ask questions. People love to talk about their passions or current projects they are working on.
- Authenticity is more powerful than a façade. Be the real you. You don’t have to try to guess who you should be or change your personality. Be confident in you.
- Know rejection may be a possibility and that’s okay. You don’t connect with everyone you meet so you can’t expect everyone to immediately connect to you. Don’t let this stop you from introducing yourself though. Just keep moving on if the individual doesn’t seem interested in chatting.
- Embrace the awkwardness. The person on the other side of the introduction is probably also uneasy. Most people find it uncomfortable to introduce themselves. If you stumble or say something awkward, just keep talking.
Before the function:
- Craft talking points before the event. Look over the list of speakers. Create discussions about whose speech you are interested in attending or questions about the function. Prompting the other person with a question will get the conversation rolling.
- Some conferences list attendees. This could help you target individuals and tailor your speaking points accordingly. You could even set appointments to meet with specific people.
At the function:
- Survey the landscape. Reading the room will help you know who to approach. Pay attention to people’s body language. This can tell a lot about whether they welcome conversation or if you should steer clear.
- A person standing by his/herself will most likely embrace company. Chances are He/she is shy and nervous to engage with others.
- Two people standing in a V formation are probably welcoming of another. If they are standing close and face-to-face, they might be engage in a deep conversation.
- It’s appropriate to stand in someone’s line of sight to signal you would like to break into the conversation.
- Put your phone away! Looking at your phone tells everyone you’re not interested in meeting anyone new.
For more advice, check out Forbes’ article “Non-Awkward Ways to Start and End Networking Conversations.”