Do you get nervous when you walk into a room full of people you don’t know? Sure, we’re all used to networking via social media – tweeting, posting to LinkendIn and sharing on Facebook- those don’t seem to intimidate us much, do they?
But when it comes to a one-on-one business networking event, professional meeting, workshop or seminar, why do some of us end up with sweaty palms and an uncomfortable feeling in the gut?
Agreed, attending an event without any familiar faces can be scary, but NOT if you go with a goal in mind BEFORE you arrive. This will help you “avoid wandering around aimlessly or trying to strike up forced conversations with people who don’t interest you.”
Here are 10 great tips offered by Forbes on “How To Work A Room Like You Own The Place”:
1. Go with a purpose. Remind yourself why you are there. You are using your precious time to network and to make some useful connections, so make sure you aren’t wasting energy. Set a couple of targets like: speak to three new people; or try to learn at least two new pieces of information or gossip.
2. Use inside contacts. If you know the event organizer and he or she is around during the event, ask for an introduction to key people who you ought to meet there. Having a warm overture will make the process of networking easier. It will also save you the time of trying to find people who you don’t know.
3. Be a lone ranger. If you’re attending the event with people you already know well, such as colleagues and friends, don’t fall into the trap of sticking together for the whole event. Talking to people who you already know will lessen your chances of meeting new ones. To extricate yourself, deliberately sit next to someone you don’t know during a talk or a meal that takes place during the event.
4. Get the lay of the land. Observe group formations before choosing whom to approach. Look for people who are most likely to respond positively. These would be individuals standing alone who are waiting for someone to talk to, or groups of twos and threes that are open to new participants. You can see this in their body language: if they are facing outward, chances are they are having a casual conversation and would be happy for others to join in.
5. Be aware of your own body language.Folding your arms in front of your body and looking at the floor forms a barrier between you and the other person and gives the impression that you don’t want to talk to them. In contrast, leaving your arms unfolded and maintaining eye contact will make them feel welcome.
6. Break the ice. Don’t feel like you have to say something profound. Breaking the ice can be as simple as commenting on the venue, the program or the food; asking people where they’ve traveled from or whether they’ve been to the event or place before; or expressing an interest in why they are attending.
7. Mind your handshake. Most meetings start with a cordial handshake. Put out your full hand, avoiding the half-handed (and halfhearted) grip, which can feel like a cold fish. Shake firmly, but don’t make it a bone crusher. Maintain eye contact and smile as you greet your new potential contact.
8. Ask open-ended questions. These are questions that ask who, what, where, when and how – as opposed to questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Your goal is to explore ideas and opinions and also to show your listening skills.
9. Go easy on the business cards. Make each one count, rather than handing them out like a meaningless pamphlet. It’s not about volume–it’s about quality contacts. Be ready to hand out a business card if someone requests it or you think that you have a made a good solid new connection. Forcing it on someone who doesn’t seem to want it just makes you look desperate.
10. Be generous. Offer to help where you can and don’t expect anything in return. Most people appreciate a favor and want to reciprocate. In time, your virtue may turn out to be its own reward.
If you want to master the art of working a room, look no further than Corporate Class’s Working a Room workshop.
Maximizing networking opportunities at meetings, conferences and trade shows is the nucleus of this session. Participants cover a full range of techniques to make connections and build relationships including: making an entrance, mastering the art of introduction, successful mingling and small talk, remembering names, handling food and drinks, plus, advance prep and final follow-up pointers.
Watch a video and learn more about our exclusive 60-90 minute Working a Room workshop here!