I don’t know anyone who loves to walk into a networking event not knowing a single soul. Some may be more comfortable and practised in doing it than others, but novices to expert net-workers all need to know how to work a room in order to develop their career.
The main thing to remember? Establishing rapport and commonalities is important and so much more useful than handing out business cards to all and sundry. Do you have a networking event to attend? If so, go with just a few guidelines:
- Develop an "elevator speech". Some people say it can be up to a minute – but that is actually a really long time. I would go with 10 seconds or so. They key is to get them interested enough to ask more about you – not hearing you drone on about every service your company could possibly ever offer. It should emphasise the benefits of your service plain and simple, such as "I help companies save money at tax time" – is far more interesting than "I’m an accountant".
- Avoid the hard sell. Do not go in thinking you have to leave with 5 new clients. Relationships take time to build and you have to show how you could be helpful to them in a wide range of areas – like by introducing them to others at the event or sending them relevant articles you have seen.
- Stay informed on current affairs, so that you can keep abreast of small talk which can be a good icebreaker.
- Actively listen and ask questions. Take an open pose, use good eye contact (don’t look over their shoulder!) and stop interrupting or contradicting. As the saying goes, interesting people are those who are interested in others.