Don’t Know anyone at a new Event
A few years ago I went to a Networking event with the goal of meeting new people, telling them what I do, and hopefully converting some of them into new clients. Well that was the goal at least.
I arrived 15min after the scheduled time, I didn’t know anyone at the event, I rushed in and looked around. I felt the familiar anxieties creeping in as the event was full already and I had no idea where to go next. As a result I headed for the one safe zone where I could regather my thoughts, the bar.
Once at the bar, I had a second look around to find someone to talk to. All the groups looked similar and very daunting. I had no idea what to do, so I ordered a drink and tried to look as calm as possible as I secretly hoped someone would come save me from my fortress of solitude at the bar.
Have you found yourself in a similar situation, with no clue of how people make a success of networking?
The good news is that you can avoid those awkward emotions by following a few steps to better prepare yourself, and give yourself a step up from potential competitors.
Step 1: Don’t arrive late
A large portion of my failure that evening was attributed to my late arrival. The reason being that people had already started meeting each other and had formed groups for the evening. This made it more challenging, and nerve racking having to approach a bigger group as opposed to meeting singles at the start of the evening.
Step 2: Increase your odds of success
When you’re looking around the room for potential groups to join, increase your odds for success by looking for groups that are open and not closed. This means that you need to approach groups who have space for you to join and who look like they have a convivial conversational going. They key is to spot a clear physical spot for you to join without having to interrupt the group and have them make a space for you.
Step 3: Relationship before Task
Yes, networking is a great opportunity to connect with others – it’s more about advancing your professional goals but it is also about getting people to like you. If you didn’t already know, you should never approach a new meeting by starting with business talk, rather save some conversational space for the rapport building using small talk. Only after you’ve warmed up the conversation by discussing the everyday happenings and any shared topics of interest, then it is a safe time to transition into business.
Step 4: Give people the Benefit of what you do
At some point during the networking dance, you will probably have to tell people what you do for a living. This is not an opportunity to fall into the trap of giving people your official business title. Rather give them a short elevator pitch on what you do, focusing on the benefit of what you do. E.g:
“I’m an accountant” vs. “I save my clients enough money to go on two international holidays every year”.
Notice how the second statement sounds more exciting, and encourages follow up questions. Whereas the first statement is vague and pretty uninspiring.
The next time you find yourself going to a networking event, take the time to step back and plan how you see the event going. Remember that 85% of your success in life depends on your ability to build relationships with people. Networking is about building rapport, having substantive conversations, and finding commonalities with other professionals in a limited amount of time to open a world of opportunities and relationship building.