One of the best ways for business professionals to engage with customers, potential clients and colleagues is at a networking event. But starting a meaningful conversation with a stranger can be an uncomfortable process.
Irrespective of how you feel, networking is a sure fire way to meet people who can help grow your business and provide you with new and exciting opportunities. Many professionals attend networking events, but few try to develop their networking skill set.
The more you practise conversing with strangers, the less anxious you will become, and you might even start enjoying it. Your confidence might inspire others to work with you, rather than just handing you a business card and not speaking to you again.
Follow these tips to make the most out of your next networking event.
Practise public speaking
Conversations tend to require as much speaking ability as presentations. Try to practise your skills whenever time allows – you could even join a public speaking class. When you feel ready, give your skills a test run by giving a presentation to your colleagues at an industry meeting or offer to give a guest lecture at your local university or college.
Always start with a handshake
Your handshake can speak volumes about your personality and your intentions. When you approach someone at an event, start with eye contact, a smile and offer a firm handshake. This nonverbal communication can give a great first impression.
Remembering names in conversations is key for networking. When a person you’ve only just met hears you say their name, they will feel more connected to you. If you’ve just met someone, use his or her name in conversation. If you forget, offer them yours with a handshake.
Instead of going to the event with the aim of getting as many business cards as you can, you should instead try to form professional connections. To do this in conversation you will need to approach people with a genuine interest in their company, hobbies and opinions.
Ask for an introduction
Having a personal introduction is a great strategy to help introduce yourself to a stranger at a networking event. If you’re nervous, try asking the host or one of your contacts to introduce you to others.
Tell a story
One of the best ways to form connections is to tell a great story. If you want to discover another person’s story, you will have to ask the right questions. Find out what their influences are, why they started their business, or what made them attend the event. These questions will help others open up to you.
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