Our task for the next few posts is to help you get more out of your networking efforts. We began with our last post, The Secrets to Successful Networking. We’ll continue by taking a page out of the Boy Scout handbook for the secret identified in this post: Be Prepared. It’s important to prepare yourself if you know you’ll be attending a networking event. This encompasses everything from dusting off that tuxedo or otherwise dressing for the occasion to determining if this event or group is even right for you.
Your preparation should begin with determining if this event is the right place for you to make connections. Find out who’s going to be there. Who attended last month/year? Chances are they’ll be back again or people like them will attend. Are they in your target? Identify the type of person with whom you want to align. Are the people you want to meet going to be there or do the people who are going to attend know someone you want to meet? If not, you have a decision to make. Is this event really worth your time?
Once you determine that it is the right place for you to be and you plan to attend, you can really maximize your efforts with a little more homework. How much do you know about who’s going to be there … how can you find out whom they know?
Try this: sit down with the list of people in your BNI chapter and look them up on LinkedIn. Really good networkers are always connected on LinkedIn. If you’re not, know that people will try to find YOU online and LinkedIn is usually the place to start for business professionals. Make it easy for people to learn more about you.
If you ARE on LinkedIn, a half hour of internet research could tell you exactly whom they know that you WANT to know! How much easier could it be than to walk up to them at your next BNI meeting and say, “I saw on LinkedIn that John Smith is one of your first level connections. I’ve been looking to meet him. Do you think you could introduce us?” Use a name whenever you can. Make it easy for someone to refer you!
If you are attending another type of event and have the guest list in advance, peruse it for people you know who may know others you want to meet. Then call ahead and ask for an introduction.
Okay, you’ve finished your pre-event homework and have your list of people you want to meet. Now it’s time to get your mind right. Not all of us are natural networkers. We all benefit from some time spent preparing our brains for the strain of networking. It’s a lot to think about, isn’t it? You want to appear upbeat and excited, yet not scatter-brained and schizophrenic. You want to have some key questions to ask, yet still appear natural with your communication style. You want to be prepared to LISTEN as well as share information about yourself. That’s a tall order. Here are some techniques to get yourself in a good mental place before you attend your next event.
Picture yourself shaking hands with your next successful client. If you have some past clients, find someone to take your picture shaking their hands, or even take a selfie with them! Keep those pictures at your desk and review them before you head out the door to network. Visualization is a powerful tool!
Perform some sort of grounding exercise. This might be a little deep breathing in the car just before you walk into the meeting, or listening to your favorite “get psyched up” song. We know a consultant who was getting ready to walk into an event where he knew there would be what he considered “high-powered, top office, C-level” people. He was feeling a little intimidated as he was getting ready to leave. So, he started repeating to himself, “I’ve got EVERY RIGHT TO TALK TO THESE PEOPLE.” and he kept repeating it in the car all the way there, and by the time he arrived he was shouting it! Do whatever you need to do to put yourself in a happy, relaxed, confident mindset.
You could even try a power pose. Stand in front of a mirror with your hands on your hips and a smile on your lips. Hold that pose for 30 seconds. Or try this one: Think about someone who’s just crossed the finish line or scored a hockey goal. Both hands clenched into fists and raised above their head, right? Did you know that even people who’ve been blind since birth will strike that pose when they “score a win” of some kind? This type of body language releases powerful hormones in your brain and bloodstream that impact your behavior. Give it a try and add a Comment below with your experience.
Knowing your DISC style will help you prepare yourself accordingly. High S’s and C’s are more often than not relatively introverted. They may need to bolster themselves for being in close proximity to a large group of people. Is it easier for High I’s or extroverts to attend a networking event? Maybe, but not always. While High I’s might not have to psyche themselves up so much, they should still take some time to get their minds right about the event they’re going to attend. If you approach a High S or C in High I mode, you could put them off and visibly watch them shrink themselves into a corner. Remember, it’s about connecting on their level. Be a master at reading body language. Be respectful of personal space. Manage your tempo and voice volume.
Use these tips to get the best results at the next event you attend. Our next post will provide you with more secrets to successful networking.