Don’t let your colleagues stop you networking!
It is amazing how many people let familiarity stop them from networking effectively. Familiarity? Yes! I’m surprised to see confident business people become nervous when meeting strangers at business and networking events. Often they ‘huddle’ with people they are familiar with. These groups provide security or confidence – but they won’t help you make new connections!
At a recent business breakfast I welcomed 3 lovely women as they arrived. They all worked for the same business. When I asked what had attracted them to attend the event they informed me it was to make business connections. Therefore I suggested that they separate and sit at different tables to make new connections.
Stepping out of your comfort zone can be difficult but do it anyway!
After welcoming guests I took my seat to find I was seated at the same table as the 3 business women who worked together.
I bet they were sorry they had picked that particular table! Anyway, they continued to talk to each other and didn’t include any of the other table attendees in their conversation. No doubt they had a lovely time but they will have come away ‘empty handed’ from the event.
Networking is simple. However, it takes time, effort, commitment and often requires getting out of your comfort zone. Incidentally, it is helpful to remember that others may be out of their comfort zone too!
Think that the way you look at people has no impact on your networking success? Think again. Body language plays a huge role in communication. Here, Bev talks the basics to help you make sure you are getting across to others effectively
Who you are speaks louder than what you say.
Communication is much more than the words you use. Numerous studies have revealed that body language and voice tone is more important than what you say.
The ability to understand and use nonverbal communication are powerful tools that will help you connect with others, express what you really mean, navigate challenging situations – and build better relationships. The way you make people feel can override everything you are saying or doing. That’s why it is important to endeavour to make people feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible.
If you smile make certain to involve your eyes!
We have all been in a situation where someone has said something yet their body language – head or arm position, poor eye contact and their voice tone – does not support the words they use. Relationships are built on trust so all aspects of our communication must support this.
I was demonstrating this at a workshop and I was standing with my arms crossed and my body angled away from the person who was speaking to me. “What is wrong?” the person in the demonstration asked. “Nothing is wrong”, I answered with a gruff voice, tapping my foot impatiently and flicking my head away from this person. Obviously my body language was not supporting my comments.
Someone in the workshop audience laughed and called out “so you have also met my wife!”
Your actions will give signals and contribute to the perception others have about you. So ensure your ‘silent’ or non-verbal language supports your verbal language. This includes obvious things such as the way you stand, eye contact, nodding of the head and so on. It also includes the less obvious – personal space between you and the other person, your rate of breathing, the speed which you speak and pauses between words and sentences.
Look in the mirror and see yourself as others see you
You may wear the smartest business attire but if you shake a business colleagues hand poorly you will be judged accordingly.
Handshakes are a sign of trust and help build strong relationships. As a business professional, it is important that you make a memorable positive impression when you are out networking. Your handshake is just one of the ways you can build a positive first impression and enhance your communication.
The biggest barriers to open communication are fear of rejection, intimidation, confrontation, not being worthy or worse, being considered stupid. Try to minimise your fears and work with reality so you can move toward better communication outcomes. By feeling any of the above you may convey insecurity so stand tall and confident – even if you don’t feel like it. Remember, many people feel uncomfortable talking to strangers so by focusing totally on the other person you will feel more relaxed and attentive. This will assist with open and trustworthy communication.
Here are a few tips to assist you to effectively communicate with others:
- Accurately read other people, including the emotions they’re feeling and the unspoken messages they’re sending.
- Create trust and transparency in relationships by sending nonverbal signals that match up with your words.
- Respond with nonverbal cues that show others that you understand, notice, and care.
Does a room full of people make you sweat? Need some help striking up a conversation? Read this article from Bev and get some great tips for overcoming that nervous feeling
Young Professionals – Here’s how to create great networking conversations…
So what do you answer when people say “and what you do?” For most of us we never think about it until it happens and then we mumble something, or give some great lengthy spiel that means absolutely nothing to the person to whom we are speaking. Your introduction should create conversation, not stop it!
Don’t be caught out again, prepare your introduction.
Now I hate the term ‘elevator pitch’ as you are not ‘pitching’ anything at anyone. You aim is to connect with the other person to create a conversation therefore your introduction should be short and catchy. Naturally, your introduction will change depending on your audience.
If you are connecting at an industry event, you can use business terminology and title as the person you are speaking to will have a greater understanding of what you do. However still keep if friendly as you still want to create conversation. This one is the easy one.
However, imagine you are at a business or social event with a wide range of people from various industries. Many may know little or nothing about your area of expertise, or have preconceived ideas about what you do. Several years ago there was an advertisement on television where a whole lot of people were socialising at a barbecue. Someone asked a man there what he did and he answered “I am a bank manager.” The whole social gathering suddenly went quiet and all the attention was turned on him. “Don’t worry” he said “I am with bank X”. Everyone smiled and the gathering continued in animated conversation.
Avoid using business jargon that may be misunderstood or not understood at all. A young insurance professional shared an experience she had when she had just started working. She was attending a social gathering with a few friends when one of her girlfriends asked her about her new job and what she did. The young insurance professional proudly explained her new role including the fact that she was an underwriter. Her young friend paused and asked seriously “How do you like working with all those dead bodies?”!!!
Keep it simple, light hearted and fun.
A financial planner I know introduces herself by saying “I make people money”. Naturally I would want to hear more. An accountant says “I help people sleep at night”. This always creates a laugh and listeners always want to hear more. “I keep people out of jail” says a criminal lawyer.
So what do you do? Do you help, save, create, teach, provide, serve, solve, assist, benefit, develop or train? Think of words that will be of benefit to others. By thinking of how you can assist others will help you create an interesting and relevant introduction.
The first part of your introduction should be short and catchy as suggested above. When the listener asks for more information then tell them a little more, but don’t share your life story. Again keep it short and to the point and then turn the focus to the person you are talking to by asking them questions about what they do, or if they have already introduced themselves ask questions to keep them engaged in further conversation.
Remember, the best networkers are the best listeners.
Therefore get the person you are talking to share more about themself and what is of interest to them. Networking is not selling. By turning the conversation to the other person and by asking strategic questions you learn about them and may also discover that they may be a potential lead or contact. It is no use talking about the importance of IT governance or political risk to find out you are speaking to the local plumber.
By asking questions you are able to find common ground or interests and it does not always have to be business related. At a workshop I was holding for senior business professionals I asked each attendee to share an interest outside of work. One man said he had a Harley-Davidson which he rode on the weekends. This created a great deal of interest from another bike enthusiast and they continued their conversation over coffee.
Your introduction is just that, an introduction, not a sales or business pitch.
Keep it short, simple (avoiding business jargon) to the point, and where possible, fun. Remember, the aim of your introduction is to create a connection which leads onto further conversation and, possibly, an opportunity to follow-up and reconnect at a later stage.