Most people would agree that public speaking is probably the biggest fear for anyone that has not been trained or coached in that skill set. Right up there with speaking in front of an audience is speaking to a complete stranger one-on-one. Believe it or not many people have an innate fear of networking. But to be a successful entrepreneur you have to build solid relationships with other professionals in your field and with your current and potential customers.
Why is it difficult for people to network even though they know it is paramount to building a successful business? Well remember, your parents told you "Never talk to strangers!" Unfortunately, when people go to events or meetings they still believe this.
If you feel like this, then remember, there are probably other people in the room who have the same fear of meeting a complete stranger. In a room full of people the decision you have to make is whether you are going to be a leader or be a person standing alone where everyone walks by and says "excuse me" so they can squeeze by you.
Here are a dozen ideas to help you on the road to successful networking and being that person who walks out with
10-15 business cards and new connections saying "Let's have lunch."
1. You have got to feel the vibe. Having confidence and an inner "can do" attitude shines out from you. There is a buzz, an aura that comes from within and glows to people in the room. If you are a success in your own eyes then people will see it. Now I do not mean being cocky or uppity, but having a sincere feeling of positive contributions you and your business can make to anyone in the room. Believe it or not, being positive builds trust in other people.
2. Use your body language to reflect your positive attitude and be fully engaged. Smile. Take pride in your appearance. Smile. You want to look smart and with it. Smile. Definitely do not look disheveled. Smile. If you are wearing a tie, avoid the loosened look. Smile. Do not roll up your shirt sleeves. Smile. Stand up straight; dress and groom with care knowing the way you look conveys a message about you to others. And smile!
3. Practice your verbal approaches prior to going to an event. For instance, how are you going to introduce yourself to a stranger? Here is one scenario:
"Hello my name is Mike Daley. What brings you to this meeting?"
Another might be:
"Hello my name is Mike Daley." Pause, so they can introduce themselves while you take the initiative to extend your hand for a greeting. Then you can say: "Do you come to these events often? Oh, it's your first time here? It's mine too. How did you hear about this?"
If you take the time to ask probing questions, it will put the other person at ease and show a distinct interest in them while not even knowing them.
4. Try to avoid the banal questions like "How are you doing today?" "How's business?" "Are you having a good time?" For some good thought-provoking questions that go beyond just "So what do you do?"
5. If someone asks you a common question, be enthusiastic and positive. For instance, if someone asks the "How's business?" question, it might be answered like this: "We're rocking along but we are always looking for more." Or if someone says: "How are you today?" you might say, "I'm fantastic since I've met so many great people at this event. How are you?"
6. Be aware of what you eat prior to an event and at the event. Bad breath is bad business! Carry breath mints, just in case. Do not chew gum.
7. Look for someone standing alone. That person is someone for you to go awaken their inner self confidence and he/she is just waiting to tell someone about themselves and their business. This person will help you ease into the networking event since breaking into a group to meet people can be very difficult, unless you know people in the group,
8. Make eye contact. Do not fold your arms or let your eyes wander. Wear your name tag on the right side of your shirt or jacket. When someone shakes your hand, their body and line of sight shift slightly to the left. Wearing your name tag on the right side makes it easy for a person to read. Do not put your hands in your pockets and do not, please do not, shake or jingle your loose change or car keys.
9. Do not go hungry to an event. You want to focus on the person not the chicken satay. If you are hungry grab something and go off to the side to eat. This is the one time you want to be by yourself.
10. Carry your business card in your pocket so you do not have to go digging through your wallet. Make sure you have enough business cards. (I know, that's a no brainer!) Show interest when you receive a business card. Take the time to read it in front of the person and hold it with both hands.
11. Keep up with local events so you have topics outside of business that might interest others, like cultural events, sports news, or current events. Stay away from negative or controversial topics, and refrain from long-winded stories or giving a lot of detail in casual conversation. Your objective in all encounters should be to make a good impression and leave people wanting more. Talk to one person four to five minutes.
12. In the end, learn how to exit gracefully. Thank your host or hostess. Say good-bye to the people you have met and reconfirm any commitments. Have a line ready to excuse yourself from the meeting and it should not be "I'm outta here!"
What does all this add up to? Know you are an interesting person. Get out and practice. Be interested. Develop face-to face relationships. Stay in touch. Consider that developing relationships from networking events is a necessary part of doing business. And smile!