18 June 2013

Networking Nouse: How to make the most of social occasions

"You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you." Dale Carnegie

If you’re looking to get ahead professionally, then looking professional and having a great kit-bag of skills is a great start to making an impact in the business world. But the ability to make an entrance and then stand out from the crowd is critical to differentiate yourself.

From there it often comes down to some core skills in networking.

Coming across professionally in the corporate box, at a business lunch or dinner, or on the local golf green can provide powerful business pay-offs. Here are some powerful tips to help you network your way to great connections:

  • Set your goal: Determine your agenda for attending: Why are you there and what benefits do you hope to gain? Are you attending to reconnect with business associates, meet new prospects, be a role model for employees, fulfil a commitment, enhance your career opportunities, have fun, get out for entertainment or learn new information?
  • Prepare a compelling 10-second personal overview: To make a lasting impression, don’t just say who you are and where you’re from. Have an interesting tagline that peaks people’s interest and attention. For example, I might give my name and company and say ‘I teach people the skills to outclass the competition’, which invites questions and conversation.
  • Practice your opening line: Establish how you might greet people so that you can comfortably spend the time looking for someone you don’t know to speak to, rather than looking for a hole in the floor to swallow you up. The simplest way to introduce yourself is to simply smile and say ‘Hello’.
  • Mingle: Aim to meet at least 3 new contacts and spend no more than 10 minutes with each person. Remember though, to spend your time fully engaged in the conversation, not scanning the room looking for the next best option, which is undeniably rude. The best way to exit a conversation is to say ‘Please excuse me, I need to mingle’. You might also try ‘I've enjoyed our conversation. I do need to catch up with a colleague now. It’s been a pleasure meeting and talking with you’.
  • Watch what you eat and drink: Avoid the lolly shop syndrome and moderate your intake. Over-indulgence is a sure way to ruin your image and your reputation. Hold drinks with your left hand, leaving your right hand dry and free for introductory handshakes. And use manners when eating. You don’t want to be the person others steer clear of because you’re not shy about talking with your mouth full.
  • Make it easy for people to get to know you: Wear your name tag on your right side of your chest. When people shake your hand, their line of sight naturally follows up your hand-shaking arm, allowing them to easily view your name tag. Also, when you meet someone you have met before only occasionally, always re-state your name just in case they've forgotten it. For example, say something like “Hello Bob, it’s Sharon Kaibel, I met you last year at the Corporate Cup. It’s good to see you again.”
  • Carry business cards: Carry your cards in a holder so they are not dirty or dog-eared. Record any relevant information about the person on the back of their card (out of sight) for future reference. And carry cards collected in a different pocket or place to avoid having to sift through cards to find yours. Then don’t forget to add your new contacts to your database so you can follow up with them at the appropriate time.
  • Follow up: Send a personal note or email to those you met, thanking them and mentioning that you enjoyed meeting them. To make this task easier, keep several stamped envelopes and matching stationery handy (a snail mail note will stand out and show you care). And if you are emailing, make sure your note is well written, well laid out and personal. If they are prospects, also send them something of value such as a magazine clipping of interest or a relevant tip-sheet to promote goodwill for future contact (but avoid the hard-sell).

Whilst personal presentation and social savvy will never fully replace professional skills and work ethics, they are a valuable addition to your tool-bag of skills to help unlock doors that might never have otherwise opened.

Happy networking!