Imagine the following situation: You get home from work on a Friday afternoon, ready to kick back and relax for the weekend. Before you do this, however, you take a quick look at your handy day planner to see what’s on your agenda for the coming week. Saturday looks good, Sunday looks good, Monday looks — oh no! You’ve noticed (and consequently remembered) that you must attend yet another networking event on Monday.
For some, this situation doesn’t seem too far-fetched. In fact, it might seem all too familiar. Sure, networking events can be a bit boring, monotonous, and tedious, but they remain hugely important to marketing yourself and building lasting, important relations with your peers in the business world.
So instead of begrudgingly attending these events for little other reason than “because you’re supposed to,” heed the following tips on improving your networking skills and make your next networking event a fruitful, and hopefully enjoyable, networking experience.
1) Be Selfless
You will often find yourself entering a networking event with the mindset of gaining something in particular or with a set list of goals you hope to achieve by the end. This puts unnecessary pressure and strain on yourself and will almost certainly have a negative impact on your experience.
Instead, approach the event with a selfless attitude and focus on providing the other event attendees with real value. Your meaningful contributions will not go unnoticed, and before long people will be lining up to meet you and snag your business card.
2) Connect with Everyone
By interacting with as many people as possible, you are giving yourself the greatest opportunity to make the all-important connections for which you came to the event. This means that you will inevitably encounter someone you deem disinteresting, unimportant, or superfluous to your networking needs.
But instead of rushing your conversation with these people or looking over their shoulders for the next person you will approach, remain attentive and engaged. You never know exactly where the conversation, and the person with whom you’re holding it, will take you.
3) Have Real Conversations
No one truly likes pointless small talk that ultimately leads to nowhere. Even worse than small talk, though, is the industry-specific jargon that will fill your head at a given networking event. So skip the boring small talk and stuffy verbiage and get to the real conversations that you want, and need, to have to make your next networking event a successful one.
4) Ask the Right Questions
Asking the right questions is integral to successful networking. Yes-or-no questions will only get you so far, especially when you’re trying to build a meaningful business relationship with someone you’ve just met. The onus falls squarely on the individual to ask others thoughtful, probing questions.
This is achieved by asking open-ended questions starting simply enough with either who, what, when, where, why or how. By doing this you will produce more thought-provoking and insightful responses that will allow you to better understand and connect with the person to whom you are speaking.
5) Don’t Act Desperate
Whether you’re on the networking scene or the dating scene, neediness can be a huge turn-off. I mean, has anyone ever said of another, “Wow, he/she is so desperate,” and meant it in a positive way? Maybe, but the chances aren’t too high. So why would you act desperate at a networking event? Exactly — you wouldn’t.
6) Limit your Drinking
Sure, the open bar and free drinks can be really appealing, especially if the event isn’t going your way. And while it is okay to drink a little to “take the edge off” or what have you, remember to drink only in moderation at a networking event.
I’ll use Patti Stanger, the founder and CEO of Millionaire’s Club International Inc., a professional matchmaking service for millionaires, as an example to illustrate this point. On her television show The Millionaire Matchmaker, Patti has a rule that her clients may consumer no more then two alcoholic drinks on a date. This ensures that her clients do not become inebriated and that their judgments are not altered or impaired. Follow this rule to ensure the same for you when in the company of your professional peers at a networking event.
As the old adage goes, “Practice makes perfect.” It may be cliché, but it’s because the phrase (usually) holds true. So get yourself to a networking event and utilize these tips to help you become the savvy networker you should be!