We’re often asked about how to meet journalists or network with potential customers or clients. I’ll let you in on some trade secrets. It’s not rocket science but it does require a certain amount of savvy.
In all business environments a huge part of success depends on your ability to communicate and network. Your customers, your clients, your stakeholders, your colleagues and everyone you come into contact with can change the course of your career or help you achieve your goals.
Modern day networking is mostly virtual and done through social media but nothing beats a good old-fashioned connection IRL (in real life for the uninitiated).
Whether you’re an actor looking to connect with a casting director or a start-up looking to chat up a potential investor keep in mind that people want to connect with warm, cordial, interesting people. What they don’t want is someone desperately selling them something.
A well-known casting director once told me that when actors approach her at parties she sometimes dreads it, unless of course they know how to speak with her like a human.
Here are some tips on how to network at parties and make the best of events.
Breaking the Ice
You don’t have to break the ice by starting a philosophical conversation around the merits of postmodernism. Keep it simple. Start by discussing the food, drinks, décor, or even the event host. Anything that is an easy entry point to conversation. Then take it from there.
Set your intention
Why are you at the event? If you’re there to meet people why not set a goal. Meet three new people, learn 5 pieces of new information, chat with someone much older than you, chat with the youngest person in the room. Make the goals SMART. Specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound.
Be real. Be natural. Be honest
Authenticity in a conversation is a tough thing to nail down but what isn’t hard to sniff out is inauthenticity in someone. Don’t lie or fake your role. Breathe and relax. No matter whom you are approaching they put their pants on one leg at a time.
Have a conversation
Human connection first, selling second. No one wants to be sold to at a social gathering. Get in the mindset that you’re there to make new friends or connections and learn. Nurturing new contacts can take time. Don’t rush the flow of conversation to meet your needs. Ask open ended questions rather than yes or no questions. Let it flow as it does.
Read the room
Look at how groups are forming. Read body language and approach those that look like they are open to being approached. Crossed arms, closed off groupings and non smiling faces are all indicators that perhaps that person would rather be left alone or is happy chatting with their current group.
That said don’t let it discourage you! Sometimes finding the person standing in the corner with their arms crossed and a straight face and bringing them some laughter, a smile and a chat about the awful hors d’oeuvres can make their day.
Check your body language
Keep your own body language open. Arms and legs uncrossed. Smile. Lean and point with your body towards people and not away. Stand up straight and tall.
Party of one
Go to the event alone. You’ll be less likely to stick with your friends or colleagues and more likely to meet new people if you attend events alone.
Just do it
Don’t be afraid. Set aside any insecurities you have. Most people want to meet other people. Go light on the business cards, handing them out where it makes sense and strategically rather than to everyone at the party.
Now take your firm handshake and direct eye contact, perfect posture and natural curiosity and go kill it at the next event.
What tips did we miss? Have any magic networking tips. Share them with us!