Why do we network?
- To form friendships
- To achieve our goals/business
- To get business referrals
- To navigate everyday life
It sounds easy but did you know that ‘speaking to strangers’ is one of people’s most common fears besides ‘public speaking’?
How many networking events do you attend regularly? Consider attending at least one a week. Think of it as an extension of your work day – as if you are doing overtime for yourself.
And since you are going to be there for a while. be prepared to have a good time. You’ve arrived at an event, so make sure you go away with a smile and some new contacts to add to your network.
Here are some tips to help you succeed:
- Preparation – If you have the opportunity, research the people you want to meet – a minimum of three people is enough. There is no point meeting many people if you can’t have a quality conversation with them.
- Business Cards – have you got enough business cards with you? Why not have some blank cards in case some people don’t have a business card.
- Look your best – wear clothes that make you look good and reflect well on your business. Check your personal hygiene (deodorant, brushed teeth, light perfume) as you will be standing close to people.
- Body language – use eye contact and a firm handshake when meeting someone. But be aware that, in some cultures, men and women don’t shake hands for religious reasons.
- Entering and exiting – Survey the room when you enter a networking event. Look for any openings such as a person who is standing by themselves or a small group. Try not to enter if only two people are talking – it may be a private matter. If you need to move on, be polite, say it was nice to meet you and that you may catch up later.
- Handling food – avoid sticky food. Always have your wine glass and serviette in your left hand, leaving your right hand free for handshakes.
- Post networking – follow up with a LinkedIn invitation with wording that shows you listened and found the person interesting. Arrange a coffee meeting to get to know each other better if you see value in it.
Finally, make networking part of your daily activity. See my blog on ‘Broadening your network’. You will reap rich rewards if you do.
Soraya Raju is the CEO and Founder of Migrate Success. She is a cultural integration expert and has developed the LAB program© – LOOK, ACT, BELONG – which covers workplace etiquette, language and cultural integration for professionals and skilled migrants.