Today’s guest post by master networker, Alana Muller. You can read Alana’s blog at Coffee Lunch Coffee.
For many of us, when we enter unknown territory or face a new situation, we have a sense of momentary anxiety… How do I get from here to there? Will I know anybody? Will anyone talk to me? What do I say? What am I doing here anyway? Of course, the tension eases as we become more familiar with the activity, get to know names and faces, learn about the organization or purpose for the event. It helps if we feel confident in our approach.
As you attend networking events and seek to establish connections, you can expedite your level of comfort by becoming part of the fabric of the experience. I don’t mean sit in corner and blend in with the wallpaper! Rather, take these seven tips for showing up and fitting in like a pro right from the start:
- Set a goal. Think about why you want to attend the event. Is it an industry trade meeting? Are you excited to hear the featured speaker? Eager to make connections with other attendees? Whatever the case, think about what you hope to gain from attendance. In terms of meeting people, quality – not quantity – is king. If you make one or two or three meaningful connections, people with whom you want to stay in contact long after the event, you will have achieved success! Establish a goal for the event up front and pursue that during your time there.
- Reach out in advance. If you know who the planners, participants and/or speakers are for the event you are attending, consider reaching out in advance. Even if you’ve never met before, pre-event outreach can help you to establish relationships long before the event takes place.
- Enlist a buddy. Sometimes, there’s strength in numbers. While it’s not a great idea to cling to one another during the event, having a friend to arrive with, check in with from time to time during the event and leave with can bring an added level of relief. Plus, when one of you meets someone interesting, you can introduce the other to your new contact thereby expanding the circle of friends.
- Show up early. Get your bearings. When you first walk into an unfamiliar building, room or event space, it can feel daunting. By getting there just a few minutes early, you become part of makeup of the event and enhance your comfort level immensely. Plus, you get your pick of other attendees with whom to interact.
- Smile. You belong. One very easy way to improve your confidence and draw in others to you is by simply smiling! You’d be surprised at how good it makes you and others feel. And, a smile will elevate your sense of comfort at the event thus bolstering your confidence even more.
- Have opening questions that are intriguing. A wonderful way to engage others in conversation is by asking open-ended questions such as “What brings you here?” “Who else from your company is attending today?” “Have you heard any memorable speakers lately?” Your sense of interest and curiosity is an invitation to engage in conversation.
- Relax. When you are relaxed, you help put others at ease. Do what it takes to feel relaxed yourself before entering the room. Others will be attracted to you, and you will enjoy the experience-a great recipe for a future encounter.
By following any or all of these seven steps, you’ll be a long way toward naturally building meaningful, authentic relationships in a new setting.
Cheers to your inspired Networking!
About the Author
Alana Muller is a corporate Networking coach, workshop facilitator, keynoter, lecturer and author of the book, Coffee Lunch Coffee: A Practical Field Guide for Master Networking and a companion blog, CoffeeLunchCoffee.com. Her accessible, relevant, immediately actionable approach to professional Networking for those interested in Connecting with others, getting involved in their community, seeking to advance their career or looking to build social relationships, has helped thousands of people formulate a strategic mindset around Networking while creating a game plan to get out there and Connect. She has been a contributor to Forbes.com, The Huffington Post, CNBC and other publications and was a featured speaker at TEDxOverlandPark. Follow Alana on Twitter at @AlanaMuller. Learn more about her professional background on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/alanamuller.