by Karima Mariama-Arthur | Featured Contributor
Do you enjoy networking? If not, believe me, you’re not alone. The number one complaint I receive about networking is that it feels unnatural. I get it. Most people feel uncomfortable cozying up to strangers. Finding ways to break the ice can be awkward and overwhelming. But, the benefits far outweigh the cons, especially for entrepreneurs, shares the Harvard Business Review. Are you willing to step outside of your comfort zone? If so, you can rapidly increase your opportunities by tenfold.
Here are 3 smart tips that will help you shake the butterflies and begin working the room with savoir fare:
1. Stop playing dodge ball. If you’re planning on hanging back and being a “silent observer”—don’t. There’s no good reason to attend a social event and not be social. Forget about being a wallflower. Forget about planting yourself in a chair or hiding in the back of the room. The whole purpose of networking is to “cast a wide net” and take every opportunity to engage the people in the room. If you’ve made yourself strategically unavailable, you cut off the potential to connect with others. Challenge yourself. Sure, it can feel uneasy at first, but that feeling will pass with continued practice. Courage is a muscle just like any other. With consistent use, it becomes stronger. Practice engaging others and watch your confidence (and results) soar.
2. Introduce yourself. First. Don’t assume that others will seek you out. Make it your responsibility to introduce yourself first. Why? It conveys confidence, which is a muscle you’re trying to build. Confidence is attractive and will put others at ease. Additionally, most people are thinking just like you. They are just as nervous and probably plotting ways to be anti-social, too! Don’t wait for them. Take the lead and be courageous. Brandish a friendly smile and extend a firm handshake. After introducing yourself, immediately ask the other person to share an introduction. This breaks the ice and helps you build rapport.
3. Memorialize the moment. If you want to make the most of networking, you have to leave a powerful impression on whomever you’re speaking with. Your goal is to be remembered. Business cards, which allow people to connect further following the event, are often thrown away because people forget why the connection mattered. Don’t let that happen to you. Pay attention to detail. Make sure to connect the dots early and often. Articulate why connecting offline would be beneficial, with an eye towards setting up a subsequent conversation over the phone or in-person. Remember that you are unique. So should the opportunities you strive to create with others. Don’t fail to memorialize the moment by teeing up your value proposition, discovering and communicating synergies.
The takeaway: Networking doesn’t have to be an albatross around your neck. Take a few steps back and embrace the possibilities of what you accomplish by utilizing these 3 tips.
To your networking success!
Photo Credit: Ambro via FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Karima Mariama-Arthur is a corporate attorney and the Founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport, an international consulting firm specializing in professional development. For helpful tips on increasing confidence and solving performance challenges, connect with her on Facebook, and for a quick dose of #Leadership inspiration, follow her on Twitter, @wsrapport.