Some people have that special skill that makes them feel completely at ease in a crowded room; shaking hands, making deals and carrying on a conversation with anyone who crosses their path. But for others, attending networking events can be quiet intimidating. Trying to carry on a conversation with individuals you hardly know, while trying to expand your network, is often outside the comfort zone for many.
Brushing up on your networking skills is a great way to feel more comfortable at events where you may not know many people. Recently, a colleague and I attended a luncheon hosted by the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce that focused on improving your networking skills. Alice Dykeman, president of Dykeman Associates, discussed her 10 Guidelines on how to work a room:
- Have a strategy, goal and purpose before attending an event. Ask yourself why you are there and what you hope to accomplish by the end of the event.
- Network with high energy. Be rested, positive and enjoy yourself when talking with individuals at an event.
- Know your ideal prospect the type of company or person you would like to conduct business with and mention that to people at the event, so they can keep an eye out for you and introduce you to the right people and companies.
- Be comfortable and welcoming when asking questions and talking to others. Pretend the event is taking place at your home and you are the host.
- Be aware of your body language. Don’t let nonverbal signals, such as crossing your arms over your chest, display lack of trust.
- Start a conversation and guide it if necessary. No one should feel left out at an event, so start a conversation with someone standing alone or start a new conversation if someone is dominating the discussion of the group.
- Support your current connections by acting as a wingman and introducing people who can help each other. Networking is often about others, not just you.
- Appeal to the other person’s own interest by allowing them to lead the conversation. They may provide you with valuable information and take the conversation to a topic that benefits you.
- Move around and move on. Spend about two to three minutes conversing with an individual. If they don’t measure up on your ideal prospect list then consider moving on.
- Have fun, trust your instincts and enjoy the event. Be serious but light when meeting others and know that you can’t accomplish everything on this checklist. It’s okay if you leave some events without making a connection.
Even PR professionals need to revisit networking guidelines every now and then. Do you have any additional networking tips you use when you’re at an event?