Entrepreneurs and networking events go together like CNN and airports. To truly succeed in business, you have to build your network, and the easiest way to do so is to really master the art of the meet-and-greet.
Networking events are intimidating for many people – you can be extremely outgoing and still be wary of approaching strangers in such a forced setting.
But, if you’re able to figure out just how to operate in these circumstances, you can forge some lasting connections and make some relationships that will truly propel your business forward.
How to Conquer Networking Events
How do you conquer a networking event? Well, here are five ways that you can go from awkward entrepreneur to cool and collected CEO.
1. Remember That it’s Just as Awkward for Everyone Else!
Once you come to this realization, these events are a cakewalk. No one is any more prepared or connected than you are at most networking events.
Thus, you should be able to take charge and initiate some conversations.
Prepare a couple lines of conversation to use if any natural chatter or small talk comes to a halt (you prepare for all other aspects of your business, so why not have a couple anecdotes or buzzword-laden sentences ready).
Always ask people about their ventures and express a legitimate interest in what they have to say.
Remember, the point of this is to see if you can strike up a business relationship – they are equally interested to see if you have anything to offer them!
Treat any interaction like a first date, as you want to express what you’re looking for, find out about the other person, and see if there is a connection or common ground (all in the context of business – don’t be a creep!).
2. Involve Other People In Your Conversation
Once you strike up a conversation, look to involve other people.
It’s easy and beneficial to drag a new person into your chat, as they will appreciate this gesture and you’ll have more to talk about.
Plus, once others see that you’re involving multiple people in your conversation, they will be less hesitant to come over and join the discussion.
You want to be seen as someone who is taking charge of the situation, and bringing people together will bolster your standing at any networking event.
3. Try A Little Pea-Cocking!
Conversation starters are tough to come by at networking events. However, there’s one tried-and-true method (inspired by nature) for getting attention that you may overlook: pea-cocking.
Wearing something especially different or snappy is sure to garner some attention from fellow attendees. Sure, you don’t want to stand out and look ridiculous, but you can add some flare to your outfit and get a conversation started.
If everyone is going to be wearing a tie, wear a bow-tie. If everyone is going to be wearing dull-colored dresses, wear red. Heck, even put some suspenders on – just try and think outside of the box!
People will likely comment on your outfit and you can start a conversation from there.
Standing out from the crowd is a surefire way to bring people to you and initiate some great networking chats.
4) Stand In Strategic Areas
Placement is everything in work/social situations; there’s a reason why you’ve heard of “water cooler” talk.
Therefore, think about where you’re going to stand at the networking event. If there’s an open bar, take a seat or stand near where people are going to get drinks.
This may seem like a simple thing to remember, but it’s often overlooked once the event begins. When you get to the event, identify places that might be high-traffic areas and try to position yourself in these spots throughout the course of the night.
You don’t want to be obvious about this tactic, or get in peoples’ way, but you can be cognizant of where you’re most likely to strike up a conversation.
5. Bring someone!
If you aren’t the most social person, and you’re allowed a guest, bring one of your more outgoing and gregarious friends.
You may have the brainpower and creativity to succeed in business, but you could be lacking some social grace.
This is where you can rely on support, as a more social acquaintance or friend could be your introduction into some great business relationships.
There’s no shame in relying on someone else’s abilities, as long as you make it worth their while and help them out once they make the initial strides in the conversation.
So to recap in short on these 5 key tips to help you conquer networking events:
- Remember that it’s just as awkward for everyone else
- Involve others in your conversation
- Try a little pea-cocking
- Stand in strategic areas
- Bring someone
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