In networking events all across the country, from Chamber After Hours to professional luncheons to business mixers, there are always those people to meet and greet everyone. Often referred to as the “movers and shakers,” the truth is these people are in possession of the networking personality. You know, the networking personality is that set of charismatic characteristics that turns everyday business people into born promoters and marketers to help grow their contacts and enhance their connection based.
While this may seem like good fortune for those lucky few, the truth is the networking personality is only a matter of practice of these few simple rules:
- THIS IS NOT PROM – GET OVER YOURSELF: This is perhaps the hardest rule for people to overcome. Many people stand on the outside of groups during networking events waiting for someone to come up and speak to them. In truth, the only person who ever talks to them is the servers passing around food or drinks. The purpose of a networking event is meet people. It is expected. Every time you approach someone and extend your hand, you are taking a risk, but most people receive an approach very well and appreciate the effort.
- “NO” CAN BE GOOD: In most people’s minds, hearing NO is the ultimate failure in networking; however, in some cases, hearing NO can be a ground breaking opportunity to disengage early and move on to an introduction that will lead to businesses. In this case, it is very much like buying a house. You will know quickly if the person in front of you is a good contact for you. There is no tragedy if both of you disengages and moves on to new connections. Be professional, ask for their business card, and move on!
- TAKE INSTEAD OF GIVE (Business cards): There are two problems with giving out a business card without being asked. First, you are spending money with every business card you give. Save your business cards for the people who are great leads. Second, if you give someone your business card, this means they are responsible for the contact. Receiving a business card gives you the opportunity to stay in contact and makes your responsible for the correspondence. Even in cases where the person is not a good contact, ask for a business card for net-weaving (see below).
- PRACTICE NET-WEAVING: INTRODUCE (3) AND CONNECT (2): At any business event, the goal is always to make connections and introduce yourself to other decision makers. Net-weaving is a great way to keep your placement in the minds of those who are currently contacts as well as make new contacts by connecting people around you. At every event, make it a habit to introduce three current connections and connect two new connections to others. Why? It is simple – when you are interested in other people’s business you stay in their mind.
- YOUR NAME TAG IS YOUR FRIEND: There are three very common mistakes to wearing a name tag. First, most people with pre-printed name tags tend to forget to wear it. Just like wearing a shirt or shoes to a networking event, your name tag should always be in the right place. The second most common mistake? Putting your name tag on the wrong side. Your name tag should always be on the right shoulder because people’s eyes travel up your arm when you extend your hand to shake hands. Third and final note about your name tag? Invest a few dollars in a pre-printed name tag. Often times, writing your name on a white tag is hurried and looks unprofessional as you try to squeeze your name and company into the little 5x7 sticky paper. It is worth a few dollars to have a clean, branded name tag that is easy to read and associate.
- BE KNOWN FOR SOMETHING - A DISTINCTIVE SIGNATURE: Establishing a moniker for your appearance or a staple that people can lock in their mind is vital to the networking personality. In a place where everyone is wearing a golf shirt with khaki pants or a simple black dress, it is easy to be “the person who always wears __________.” For women, it might be a scarf or a hat. For men, it might be a bowtie or a cleaver shirt pattern. Either way, connecting something about your person to your brand makes people remember you all the more.
- IF YOU JUGGLE, YOU LOOK LIKE A CLOWN: Over and over again, business struggle with the presentation of their materials. Especially true of women with purses or bags, digging for a business card or, worse, giving someone another person’s business card is incredibly unprofessional. If you have to dig for a clean, crisp business card, then it says that you do not have your act together. HINT – keep your business cards in your right pocket and the business cards of others in your left pocket. With this habit, you will automatically be able to produce a business card at moment’s notice.
- SOCIALIZE LATER – MEET THE PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW: It is easy to fall back into the waiting friendships of people who you know and feel comfortable with at a networking event; however, socializing is not the goal. Your goal is to get out there and meet the people who you are not connected. Take the time to gather your senses and really get comfortable with those who are not in your business circle while using those opportunities to connect with familiar people through net-weaving.EVERYTHING IN YOUR HANDS ARE OBSTACLES: At many networking event, food and drinks are supplied as part of the entrance fee. Although this is done with goodness to allow people to relax, everything in your hand presents an obstacle to shaking hands, giving business cards, and interacting with others. If you have set down a drink or ask someone to hold a plate of food, then you are not presenting the most positive professional appearance before those people who are thinking of doing business with you. Clear your hands and streamline your interactions.
- THE BIGGEST FAILURE – FOLLOW UP: Many times, when people leave networking events, the handful of business cards end up on a desk or thrown away. The most important thing about the networking personality is the plans for how you will connect with the leads you develop during the event. All of the dynamic character and outreach of the networking personality will be wasted if you do not follow up immediately with people while you are fresh in their minds.
There are many reasons to work on building the networking personality. If the cliché is true about first impressions being the best impressions, then creating a dynamic lasting connection relies on claiming a unique presence in the mind of each person encountered at the event. After all, there is no point going to a networking event if people don’t remember you have been there.