Are you a Wallflower or a Slick Operator? – How to make networking work

Networking styles tend to run along a spectrum with two extremes, neither of which works. At one end stands the networker. We all know this person. They’re always reaching out and feel too slick. At the other end are those who are completely terrified of the prospect of interacting and striking up conversation with numerous strangers.

If your planning on networking you obviously want to fall somewhere in the middle of these two, but where and how do you get there?

Here are 4 tips to get you on your way to being able to networking like a pro:

Be yourself: Most of the human population can work out when someone is being fake and not telling the whole truth. The problem with this is, when we see or speak to someone that isn’t being sincere we automatically become cautious or skeptical of them. Don’t try to be the slick networker you’ll do much better being yourself!

Practice makes perfect: Well, it may not make you perfect but it will definitely make you a lot better! Practice telling your story whether it be coming up with a new product or how you started up. What’s the most important points of your business that you want to convey? Is there a funny story about how you got started? Also think about the questions your business could trigger. In this sense its really no different to a set of interview questions, and you wouldn’t go into an interview ill prepared.

Meet New People: One of the most daunting things about networking events for me is the huge number (or what feels like a huge number) of strangers to talk to. The easiest thing to do and I see it all the time is to find someone that you know and latch on like a limpet. But if you spend all of your time talking to the people you know and who know your business its unlikely that you will get much out of the event. Force yourself to talk to a certain number of people at each event and increase that number as you go along. 

Find Your Comfort Zone: A natural conversation with someone you’ve just met doesn’t usually doesn’t start with you spewing out all the details about your business. Without being artificial, find your comfort zone for small-talk topics that you enjoy. It could be as simple as the venue location, weather or buffet choices! They all work, but there are many other topics that are more interesting and help sustain a conversation. Remember each person you talk to usually knows someone else there, and when their connections walk up to talk with them (and now you) your network grows.

Most of these points are about assiduously ensuring you connect with people you don’t know well to see if they could be of value to you and your business. We all squirm when that first type of networker hits us up too quickly or too hard in the hopes of getting something from us. On the other hand, individuals who use their networks and resources to help others feel very different. Whether we admit it or not, we feel a debt to them for their help.