What is the big secret?
I will say without fear of contradiction, that 99% of people are somewhere between slightly anxious, all the way through to petrified, when walking in to the room full of strangers. I promise – if this is you – you’re normal.
It’s all about focusing on the right person.
The reason people get nervous is because they focus too much on themselves. Your focus is in the wrong place, take it off yourself and put it on the people that you are about to meet. Most worry about things such as “Am I going to be judged and found wanting?” “Is my appearance suitable?” “Am I going to be interesting?” and most of all, “Am I going to be accepted or rejected?”
Doing your homework
There is a time to focus on yourself; this is before attending the event itself. Once you’ve accepted the invitation consider asking yourself the questions ‘What? Why? When? Where? Who? How?
What is this event all about? What do I hope to get from it? What do I have to offer to other people? What do I take? (e.g. business cards and a pen).What am I going to talk about? What has been in the news recently?
Why am I going and giving up three precious hours to attend?
When is it? Is my diary free? What are the timings? How long can I stay?
Where is it? How am I going to get there and how am I going to get home? Are there parking facilities?
Who will be attending? Who should I take with me? Who should I aim to meet if I can find out who is likely to be there?
How am I going to make the right impression? What am I going to wear?
You’ve spent long enough focusing on yourself, as long as you’ve done your homework, by asking all the above questions, you will be well prepared and ready for the event you are attending.
The most important point I make is to ask you to remember who you are and believe in yourself. If you are a pleasant person who is friendly, gracious and open then hold your head up high and be prepared to give of yourself.
Accept you are as good as anyone else in that room even though you may not be the richest, the most senior or have an important title. The core principle of networking is giving. When you give of yourself you can assume you are going to be welcomed.
At the event
The focus now should be totally on other people. Networking is about building relationships, getting people to like and trust you.
Spend far more time being interested rather than interesting. Think WII-FY (what’s in it for you) rather than WII-FM (what’s in it for me?). Ask questions because people love talking about themselves – good networkers let them do this. Be aware at all times and read a person’s body language. Approach people on their own, or those in open formatted groups. When you are talking to people make sure you give them your full attention. Looking around the room whilst someone is talking to you is a big no-no. How would you feel if someone did that to you? Then when the conversations come to an end, move on with courtesy and politeness. Offer to introduce them to others rather than just leaving them alone. Play host when you see people standing on their own by inviting them in.