Networking events rank as one of the best ways for entrepreneurs to mingle with potential clients, customers and colleagues. Whether at a conference, corporate gathering or cocktail party, networking events offer a great opportunity for small business owners to meet new people and reconnect with old associates.
However, if you find the idea of mingling in a room full of strangers terrifying, connecting with other business owners and potential customers or clients can be an uncomfortable and difficult process. No matter how you feel about mingling, networking is still an incredibly effective way to meet people who can offer new opportunities to your business.
While a lot of entrepreneurs frequently attend networking events, few actually practice or study the principles behind effective networking. The more practice you have at starting new conversations with strangers, the less nervous the idea of mingling will become. Your confidence will attract others and help you become a lot more than just another face and one more business card.
To become a better mingler, give these tips a try during the next networking event you attend.
Improve Your Public Speaking Skills
Holding a conversation requires the same set of skills as giving a presentation or speech. Practice your public speaking skills whenever you can. Take a class on public speaking or join a local Toastmasters club. When you fee ready, offer to give a guest lecture at a local university or community college or give a presentation at an industry trade show or meeting.
Start With a Simple Handshake
The quality of handshake you offer a stranger says a lot about you and your intentions. When you approach someone you don’t know at a networking event, begin your conversation with a firm handshake. Make eye contact as you greet the person, smile, offer your hand and introduce yourself. This type of confident nonverbal communication will better help you build a rapport right from the start.
Master the Name Game
When holding conversations, an essential skill that often gets over looked is remembering the other person’s name. Saying someone’s name during a conversation helps to establish a connection and show you’re actively listening to what the person is saying. To help you remember someone’s name, try using it frequently throughout the conversation. Should you forget the name, simply offer your hand and introduce yourself. The other person will more than likely reciprocate by introducing him or herself.
Show a Real Interest
A lot of entrepreneurs fall into the trap of using a common but ineffective approach to networking. Instead of spending time building relationships and establishing rapport, they just hand out and collect as many business cards as possible. However, the best way to create lasting professional connections is to approach potential new customers, clients or contacts with a genuine interest in their hobbies, opinions and businesses. When you start a conversation, try asking open-ended questions to demonstrate interest and sincerity.
Tell Your Story
The best way to form connections while networking is being able to tell your story during conversations. Everyone has some kind of story to tell. To uncover the other person’s story, you need to ask the right questions. You could start with something like “Who influenced you to become what you are today?” It’s a very personal question and should help others open up to you in return.