Networking events: a combination of potentially awkward, inauthentic conversations that could leave you questioning whether or not you suffer from social anxiety.
Sound familiar? If it’s any consolation, you’re not alone. Most people are uncomfortable walking into a room full of strangers, yet by not doing so; you limit your own opportunities. Networking isn’t only limited to the sternly career-driven, it’s all-encompassing throughout our lives. The earlier you start, the better (and you might unexpectedly enjoy it!).
So, without further ado, here are a few personal tips to help make the initial introduction more genuine.
First things first, you’re not going to change your life on the day of a networking event, but it could be the start of a domino effect that does. Try focus on building relationships you can actually contribute to, with people you actually like.
Figure out who matters most. There is an inclination to meet lots of people at events like Synapse. This is partially fuelled by social media, where there is emphasis on the importance of large numbers of Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections and Facebook friends. In reality, knowing many people in a superficial way is only useful to a scarce number of professions. So unless you’re planning on dropping your new mix tape, only pick a few relevant people to talk to rather than trying to meet every single person who crosses your line of vision.
Pay attention. I can’t emphasize this enough. Regardless of who you’re talking to, you should always be engaged and give the other person your undivided attention. Remember that there is nothing more flattering than someone who listens carefully and shows sincere interest in what you have to say. Ask questions and listen to the responses so that you can begin to understand the person. You may discover something unexpected, evoke that person’s curiosity and voila! You’re now intriguing – a very memorable trait.
Be honest. Don’t make false promises or agree to do things for the sake of niceties. Do not over-commit or feel guilty; it’s fine not to stay in touch with everybody that gives you their business card.
Follow up immediately. If you do find a promising person or company and you agree to contact them, get it done on the spot. Phones have email for a reason – everyone’s busy and it’s easy to forget things. It’s an awesome habit that will reduce your to-do list!
Giving vs. Getting. If you really wish to connect with someone, this is your top priority. Maybe you’ve got a great book recommendation, or can introduce them to another great connection. The greatest networkers I know genuinely like to help others, and if they ever need anything, people will fall over themselves to help them. Friendships are the best business connections you can have.
Chill. Think long term vs. short term. Ask a question that opens up natural dialogue (you don’t want to come across as pushy!). It will get you thinking in terms of people, not positions.
Synapse is a gathering of like-minded people who are capable, ambitious and motivated – many of whom are destined to become great influences and potentially invaluable connections.
So walk into that room full of strangers and broaden your opportunities, you never know who you might meet!