Thursday, May 10, 2007

How To Be Approachable When Networking

I often hear from consultants and small business owners (both new and seasoned pros alike) that networking is one of their most dreaded business activities. When asked why they don't like networking, the most common answer I hear is that they don't think they're very good at it. Everyone has their own personal reasons as to why they don't like networking, but it is a necessary activity if we want to stay in business and promote ourselves to the business community.

For the most part, I enjoy networking and try to do it as often as I can. I found an article from a helpful website called WikiHow that offers tips and tricks on how to accomplish a wide range of activities from home & garden to business to travel. They even have an article on how to Escape a Prison Camp... if you ever find yourself in that situation.

A new article on their site was recently posted called How to Look Approachable. While the article talks about social situations such as parties, think of it in context to business settings or networking functions. These tips will help you be a better networker.

When it comes to a networking situation, your main goal should be to break the ice with just one person. Along with the tips in the article, follow these tactics to turn what may be a dreaded situation for you into pleasurable one:

  1. Find an approachable person and introduce yourself. If someone approaches you, greet them with enthusiasm and appreciation.
  2. Learn about what the other person does. Who are the customers they serve? What products and services do they provide? In kind, the other person should be asking you the same questions.
  3. Look them in the eye and listen to what they have to say. Focus on having a meaningful conversation with that person.
  4. Find out if they have been to past networking functions. If so, after the two of you learn about each other's respective businesses, ask if there is someone else present in the room that they think you should meet. Do this, and you are on your way to generating momentum that will propel you through the networking event. If they are new just like you, offer to team up and work the networking event together. A "buddy system" approach to networking will help take the pressure off you in what might feel like an uncomfortable situation.

I know most of what I said is elementary, but from time to time we need to remind ourselves how to network. Networking doesn't have to be a miserable experience. If making friends is easy for you, networking shouldn't be too difficult.

1 comment:

Kevin Donaldson said...

As someone who used to be very uncomfortable with the concept of networking, I find much of the fear people feel is in their head. Be confident in the fact that you have something interesting to say, and practice active listening. Plus, of all the places I have been, Boise and the Treasure valley is one of the easiest places to network. Everyone here is very open to having interesting discussions and meeting others in the business community.