Whether you are a networking mastermind or realize that you need to learn networking skills to succeed in your path in life, these are 10 skills that you can embrace to help you meet and bond with new people.
1) Push Your Comfort Zone With New Events
Good events for networking are all around us. Open your eyes to local magazines and bulletin boards–both digital and the old-fashioned kind. Online sites like Facebook events and MeetUp.com offer venues to connect to networks of all types.
Workshops offer excellent opportunities to connect with people because there’s often an opportunity for people besides the presenter to talk, and there’s a natural topic for dialog with the work at hand. Art openings are public events that you can attend with a wingman (or girl) or stag. Look for some with added live music, and a wee bit of booze, and you’ll find both yourself and others in a relaxed mood and receptive to making contact with new peeps.
If you’re in Miami, you’re in luck because Ampersand Studios hosts these types of events every month. Past events have included photography workshops, small business marketing forums with food trucks on hand, and art exhibits in conjunction with the world-famous Art Basel. To learn about future events in the Miami vicinity, go to Ampersand’s EVENT SPACES page and drop your email for notifications.
2) Business Cards Are Definitely NOT Passé
There’s a certain finesse to handing out and collecting business cards. You should always carry at least a half dozen in your wallet or a business card case. In general, don’t be the first to offer them but ask others if they have one. You can make quick notes on the back of the card to remind you later of common shared interest. Then use the card the day after the event to follow up with a LinkedIn invite if appropriate, or a quick email to reach out within a day or two.
3) LinkedIn Is Your Digital Rolodex
Not everyone wants to be Facebook friends after the first meeting at a networking event. But what if you want to stay in touch for the future, and you’re not ready to add the person to your phone contacts yet either? LinkedIn can be the answer, especially if your goal for networking has anything to do with business building. A few significant contacts (people with vast and well-known connections) in your local metropolis can do a lot to help you get found by those who need what you have to offer. An article in Entrepreneur suggests that if LinkedIn seems too aggressive, you can follow and interact with people on Twitter. Or perhaps try Instagram if their account is public.
4) Learn Name-Recall Mnemonics
When meeting a lot of new people, it’s hard to remember everyone’s name. That’s one reason business cards are helpful. When you get one, don’t immediately shove it in your pocket but take a few seconds to study it. Many of us are visual learners. You can also offer a mnemonic for your own name. For example, if your name is Ann, you can say, “Ann, like Raggedy Ann or Anne Boleyn, whichever you’ll remember! Do you have a way that people remember your name?” It’s a great conversation gambit, and the more unusual, the better! For more name-memory ideas, check out this article on CNBC.
5) Check Your Shyness at the Door
What shy people don’t realize is that everyone wants to be liked, and others are more worried about how they come across than they are focused on you. There are probably thousands of ways to learn how to not be shy. Here are three that you can try:
Learn your power color. What do people always say you look good in? What makes your eyes sing? Have a lucky shirt in that shade, and wear it for a confidence booster.
Focus on a great handshake. If you are confident in your handshake, it can be a secret weapon in getting people to like you. Overcome the limp-fish/dead paw handshake, but don’t try a power wrestler grip either. Practice with a trusted friend.
Spend 15 minutes every day listening to the news on the radio or reading about current events. Recall what you’ve learned at the end of the day, and you will be armed with relevant fodder for conversations at social gatherings.
6) Listen More Than You Talk
Most advice on how to connect with people emphasize that listening is one of the most underrated skills you can have. Develop good listening skills, using encouraging eye contact, and asking relevant, open-ended questions to elicit more information. Even simple gestures like nodding when someone else is talking and making small vocalizations like “hmmm,” and “un-huh” in an affirmative tone are part of strong networking skills.
7) Ask Yourself What Can I Offer?
When networking, if you are genuinely interested in other people, you will naturally want to help others. When you embrace the step above and let people talk about themselves, you will get insights into what motivates them and where their “pain points” are. Once you make the connections, it’s important to stay in touch from time to time, either digitally or on the phone, and hopefully in person. If you have listened well at the first meeting, you’ll have a sense of what the other person is into, and what future events you can share with them.
8) Learn About Body Language
Want to really know how to connect with people? Mirror their body language. Learn how to read group dynamics to time how you make contact to join a new cluster of people. It may seem a little creepy at first, but studying the quasi-science of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) may help you with networking.
9) Stay Upbeat and Positive
No one wants to meet (or stick around) Debbie Downer! You’ll be easier to meet if you put on a smile and assume the best about the event and other people. Networking advice from a former introvert turned power networker, Loren Fogelman makes a good point: Especially when making an “up connection,” or approaching someone you believe is better established than you, don’t complain!
And finally, the takeaway:
10) Re-Think Your Networking Skills
While many people want to network to expand their connections to make sales, that should not be your primary goal. Rather than trying to cast a net to catch new prey in, think of networking opportunities as an opportunity of discovery, to learn about fascinating new people, and explore a world of new ideas. Think of making new acquaintances that can be potential friends. People tend to like people who like them.