8 steps to better networking from Ivan Meisner
- Be Ready to Engage
When you arrive at a meeting, event, party, or anywhere many conversations will take place, prepare yourself. Be “ready to engage,” with conversation topics, questions, and stories in the back of your mind, ready to go as soon as you meet someone. This will help you avoid those awkward “How’s the weather?” discussions.
- Focus on CPI
“CPI” stands for Common Point of Interest. It’s an essential element in every conversation and interaction. Your duty, as you meet new people, or even as you talk with those you already know, is to discover the CPI as soon as possible. It helps establish a bond between you and others. It increases your approachability and allows them to feel more comfortable talking with you.
- Give Flavored Answer
You’ve heard plenty of “fruitless questions” in your interactions with other people–questions like “How’s it going?” “What’s up?” or “How are you?” When such questions come up, Scott warns, don’t fall into the conversation-ending trap of responding, “Fine.” Instead, offer a “flavored answer”: “Amazing!” “Any better and I’d be twins!” or “Everything is beautiful.” Your conversation partner will instantly change their demeanor, smile, and, most of the time, inquire further to find out what made you answer that way. Why? Because nobody expects it. Not only that, but offering a true response to magnify the way you feel is a perfect way to share yourself, or “make yourself personally available” to others.
- Don’t Cross Your Arms at Networking Events
Even if it’s cold, you’re bored, or you’re just tired and don’t want to be there–don’t cross your arms. It makes you seem defensive, nervous, judgmental, closed-minded, or skeptical. It’s a simple, subconscious, nonverbal cue that says, “Stay away.” People see crossed arms, and they drift away. They don’t want to bother you. You’re not approachable. Think about it, would you want to approach someone like that? Probably not. So when you feel that urge to fold your arms across your chest like a shield, stop. Be conscious of its effect. Then, relax and do something else with your arms and hands.
- Give Options for Communication
Your friends, colleagues, customers, and coworkers communicate with you in different ways. Some will choose face-to-face; some will e-mail; others will call; still others will do a little of everything. Accommodate them all. Give people as many ways as you can to contact you. Make it easy and pleasant. On your business cards, e-mail signatures, websites, and marketing materials, let people know they can get in touch with you in whatever manner they choose. Maybe you prefer e-mail, but what matters most is the other person’s comfort and ability to communicate with you effectively. There’s nothing more annoying to a “phone person” than to discover they can’t get a hold of you unless they e-mail you.
- Always Have Business Cards
At one time or another you’ve probably been on either the telling or listening end of a story about a successful, serendipitous business encounter that ended with the phrase “Thank God I had one of my business cards with me that day!” If you recall saying something like that yourself, great! You’re practicing approachability by being easy to reach. If not, you’ve no doubt missed out on valuable relationships to get their supply reprinted, or change jobs. Always remember: There is a time and a place for networking–any time and any place! You just never know whom you might meet.
- Conquer Your Fear
Do you ever hear yourself saying, “They won’t say hello back to me. They won’t be interested in me. I will make a fool of myself”? Fear is the number-one reason people don’t start conversations–fear of rejection, fear of inadequacy, fear of looking foolish. But practice will make this fear fade away. The more you start conversations, the better you will become at it. So, be the first to introduce yourself, or simply to say hello. When you take an active rather than a passive role, you will develop your skills and lower your chances of rejection.
- Wear Your Name Tag
I’ve heard every possible excuse not to wear name tags, and all of them can be rebutted: “Name tags look silly.” Yes, they do. But remember, everyone else is wearing one too. “Name tags ruin my clothes.” Not if you wear them on the edge of your lapel, or use cloth-safe connectors, like lanyards and plastic clips. “But I already know everybody.” No, you don’t. You may think you do, but new people enter and leave businesses and organizations all the time. “But everyone already knows me.” No, they don’t. Even the best networkers know there’s always someone new to meet. Your name tag is your best friend for several reasons. First of all, a person’s name is the single piece of personal information most often forgotten–and people are less likely to approach you if they don’t know (or have forgotten) your name. Second, it’s free advertising for you and your company. Third, name tags encourage people to be friendly and more approachable.