We’ve all been there. Gently hovering by the lukewarm pain au chocolat with a trembling coffee in hand and praying to evaporate from the white-collar scene you were forced into attending. You don’t know anybody. It seems that everybody is long-lost childhood friends. You’ve eaten so much pastry, you could vomit. How do you ‘work the room’? What is the secret? Fear not, because PATH has five top tips for networking when you’re quite simply TERRIBLE at networking (we’ve all been there). Let’s start at the beginning…
- Re-think your objectives: We all know that networking is an opportunity to find out about how other people can help you and the organisation you represent. But rather than viewing everybody that you meet as a mere opportunity to make money, it is important to create a genuine connection with your new polished-shoed friends. Forget the slimy ‘goals’ of networking for a moment and ask genuine questions about the person first; how is their day going? What are their hobbies and interests? THEN allow the conversation to naturally flow onto the company they represent…
- Hold back the business card: Imagine. It’s the first time you meet a fellow nervous networker. They greet you not with a warm smile or a handshake. No no no no. They shove a cold, hard business card barrier into your outstretched hand. The barricade to genuine business bonding. Here’s a lesson. You are not a walking sales pitch. Say it out loud. Go on. A bit louder. Bring the business card in only if the person you speak to will have a genuine need to potentially contact you. A business card is only useful if the person has real need of it.
- Listen: Stop worrying about whether you are eating too much food. Stop panicking about whether you are talking too much. Stop looking at your watch. Listen to the human being who is standing in front of you. Sometimes it’s hard to concentrate when you are too busy trying to quieten down your internal monologue; we get it. But it’s so important to show genuine interest in the person you are speaking to. Keep focused and attentive. It makes you more likeable and helps to build a real connection.
- Ask questions: People like sharing their knowledge. It gives them a real confidence boost and makes them feel good by helping somebody else in imparting their knowledge. If you are curious about a fellow networker who has an ice-sculpting business, don’t be afraid to ask them questions! The more you ask questions, the more you learn about the person you are speaking to. Then, you can identify how their business is relevant to yours. (Or not!).
- Keep practicing: The best way to gain confidence in networking is to practice. The more you are exposed to the intimidating and pastry-laden world that is networking, the more you get used to how to act, eat, stand, talk and behave. The good news is that PATH has a number of networking opportunities throughout the year that can give you the chance to practice. Our Second Chance Workshops are a great place to start!
Keep an eye out on our News and Events for our upcoming networking opportunities.