Getting in the Right Mindset for Networking Events
The statistics say it takes less than 7 seconds to make a first impression. It is very important to get into the right mindset before heading out to your next networking event. The first step you should take is preparation. For those who are not “natural networkers” it is helpful to prepare before the event so there are no surprises when you arrive. Knowing the event format is very helpful. Just last week at an event when it came time to do our “30 second pitches” a woman who was there for the first time asked to be skipped. I ran into her two nights later at another event and she said she was not prepared. But that was a missed opportunity. A room of 40 businesswomen wanted to get to know her and learn about her business. So if you are someone that will be more at ease and make a better impression if you know the event format prepare ahead of time. Find out if an elevator pitch will be requested, practice your pitch, find out how long the event will be, who will be attending, even find out whether food will be served. I don’t know about you but I get pretty grumpy if I’m hungry and may not put my best food forward.
When attending a networking event you want to act with confidence and interest. You need to be “all in.” This is not the time to check your email, catch up with friends, step away from a conversation to take a call, etc. I often tell people if you are in a bad mood, don’t bother attending a networking event-even if you paid for it ahead of time. The reason for this is that a bad impression is very hard to change. If you are the type of person that has had a bad day and can shift gears to be open and personable that’s great. But if not, be mindful of that.
When talking to people at a networking event they should be the only ones in the room. Make sure you listen and ask questions and learn what is important to them. Be present, be engaged and make eye contact. Smile at people! It is even better if you can connect on a personal level. This is not the time to look over someone’s shoulder to see who else in the room might be “better” for you to be speaking to. Even if in your mind the conversation is going nowhere and you’d rather walk away, make sure you are attentive and exit the conversation gracefully.
When having conversations at networking events ask good questions. By “good” I mean do not revert to the “what do you do” if possible. Ask people questions that will allow them to open up about themselves. This will help you to get to know them and maybe even to find out what their problems or needs are and how your business services may provide a solution for them. Some examples: “How has your day been,” “How did you get started in this line of work,” and “What projects are you working on right now.” Outside of work-related questions, simply ask people what they love to do. This will really help you to get to know someone on a personal level and possibly reveal some points of commonality.
We all have work, family or other responsibilities that we are thinking about and lots of us women (including myself) seem to have running “to do” lists in our heads. But when you attend a networking event, think of it as a presentation. You need to focus and be in the moment. And don’t forget to be authentic and open-you might actually make a new friend as well!
Jennifer Lynn Robinson, Esquire
Jennifer Lynn Robinson, Esquire is CEO and Founder of “Purposeful Networking.” She offers consults with individuals to target their ideal clients through improved relationship building. She conducts workshops and speaking engagements for workplaces, business associations, non-profits and other groups. Jennifer lives with her husband and their three rescue dogs in suburban Philadelphia, PA. www.purposefulnetworking.com