Just this morning I kicked off a corporate speed networking session at the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce with a few tips for successful networking. Networking is essential for building our businesses and our careers, but it is something that confuses and frightens many of us. However, with a bit of time and attitude preparation, networking can be less dreaded and more productive.
To be a great networker, we recommend to clients that they put their best FACE forward – that they be Focused, Authentic, Confident, and Enthusiastic. While it is important to get your three-minute elevator speech down pat and to articulate the benefits of what you offer to others, focusing on FACE helps you to connect more strongly with others, which is what networking is all about – building relationships. And while it can be scary to network with others, as we suggest in our recent blog, There is no try, only do. There is not do, only be. sometimes we have to simply get out there and do it, and at the same time, be intentional and thoughtful about what we’re doing.
- Focused – it’s important to be focused in networking, focused on what you want to get out of a networking situation and also focused on those with whom you are networking. We stress the concept of “thoughtful leadership” – in each moment and situation being aware and intentional about what you want to get out of the situation and why you’re there. It is valuable to think this through before you attend a networking event because with this preparation, you’re more likely to achieve the outcomes you set for yourself. It’s also essential to be focused on the people with whom you are networking – to give them your undivided attention and to look for ways to connect with them and support them. Networking is not about only getting what you want, it’s about meeting people, building relationships, and supporting others to get what they want. This almost always returns in positive outcomes for you as well.
- Authentic – networking only works when you are authentic – authentically yourself and showing up as you really are. Because networking is about building relationships and connecting with other people, it is necessary that you share a bit of yourself and your humanness. This is the glue that binds people together. It can even be useful to share how you don’t like networking, if you don’t, because often it breaks the ice and builds rapport. You want the people you’re meeting to know and like you – and the only way they can do that is if you are yourself.
- Confident – even if you’re not confident, it’s important to act confident. I’ve heard people share advice to “act as if” or “fake it ’til you make it.” Either way, even while you’re being authentic, it’s crucial to come across as feeling comfortable in your own shoes and believing in yourself and what you’re “selling” (whether it’s your firm, your product, or yourself). People only buy from, and hire, people they like and people they believe are confident in what they’re sharing and representing. Even if you are shaking in your shoes, it’s vital for those you’re connecting with to know what you believe in.
- Enthusiastic – passion sells. It engages people and inspires them to listen to you more and consider what you’re offering them. When you are networking, remember to share your passion about what you do, who you are, and why. If you don’t feel passionate, be sure to find something to be enthusiastic about before you start your conversations. You want people to remember you and to want to learn more about you – and your enthusiasm for yourself and/or your company will help make this happen.
Again, networking is something that many of us dread, but with a bit of preparation and thoughtfulness it can be a more enjoyable, and rewarding, experience.
What works for you in networking situations?