In a world where technology is a pillar in our lives, certain “old-school” practices can have a major impact on how we are perceived by others. Having solid face-to-face communication skills and how technology has negatively effected millennials and the up-and-coming Z and Alpha generations is a topic of discussion in many circles. Today we explore how the “old-school” technology free approach of face-to-face communication can have a major impact on your networking efforts and make them as effective as possible. Let’s dive in!
1. Have a Goal
Whenever attending a networking event, know what you want to accomplish. For us at Cyberpunk, the goal is simple: make contacts that could either use our services (sales) or find people that could function as a vendor for our business. That may seem obvious but for some it isn’t always and for some it may not be their goal. Some people attend networking events looking for venture capitalists, mentors or advice. Bottom line is that without a target in sight, your bound to miss.
2. Add Value and Ask Questions
Most networking events have some sort of topic or theme that the event is built around. This is a great way to break the ice with people and get a discussion started. Being able to speak intelligently about the topic at hand is important as it establishes your value. However, even more important is to ask questions that can extract value from others. Generally speaking, people enjoy being able to share their knowledge and having their time in the spotlight. Asking questions keeps the conversation going and keeps whoever your talking to engaged. Don’t worry though, you’ll get your time in the spotlight as well. Focus on being interested rather than interesting and the conversation will always eventually come back to you.
3. Be Friendly and Positive
Show up with a friendly and positive attitude. People will intuitively pick up on your energy and gravitate towards it. That being said, people will also recognize your negative energy and will be compelled to move away from it. Learning to compartmentalize a bad day, or life events can be hard to do. If you have trouble doing that, maybe you shouldn’t attend the event in mind. Try wearing your accomplishments and good feelings on your sleeve. It will be easier for you to start conversations taking this approach.
4. Be Assertive
OWN yourself! Be confident with your introductions and what you have to say. People naturally try to protect their “awkward sensor” and not being confident will trigger that. If you’re not a natural extrovert, that’s okay. It wont be easy to adopt a more outgoing confident persona but like anything else it can be learned.
5. Be Personable
People have an easier time connecting with other when they share similarities. That being said, it becomes easier to identify those similarities when people can relate to you on a personal level. Have kids? Talk about them! But not too much 🙂 Revealing bits and pieces of your personal life is a great way to break the ice with people and start developing a relationship.
6. Have a Style that Stands Out
This has to do with how you dress. If you’re showing up to an event with a bunch of suits, be ready to wear a suit too. However maybe loosen the tie and choose a color that really pops. If you’re a lady, the options extended much much deeper. The idea is to standout from the crowd but also look like you belong there. Looking too different than who you’re there to meet usually will offset people. Playing the part different enough will create intrigue. Have fun with it!
7. Manage Your Time
There’s a lot of people to meet and only a finite amount of time to do so. Knowing when to move away from a conversation is important. Be ready to make quick calls. If a conversation doesn’t align with your goals kindly excuse yourself and move on. If you’re really hitting it off with someone, spend some time developing the relationship, exchange contact information and move on. You’ll always have time to follow up with them after the event. Its always better to leave on a positive note than a negative.
8. Learn Your Niche
Your market is more than likely over saturated, just like ours. That being said, have a niche and specialty for your product or services. Knowing this going into an event will help you make quicker decisions when conversing with people as to whether or not building a relationship with them aligns with your goals.
9. Treat Yourself Like a Commodity
Regardless of who you work for, or if you’re self-employed YOU are what you are selling. People will always remember YOU first regardless of what kind of work you do, your accomplishments, your product, your brand, etc. Take this seriously as the relationships you build with people are in fact with you and not anything else you may or may not represent.
10. Take a Pull and not Push Approach
In the last ten or so years, many businesses have moved over to using inbound marketing strategies rather than the traditional push marketing strategies. Ever join a gym? Ever feel pressured to purchase the service just so the guy leaves you alone or feel bad for saying no? These are effects of push based marketing and sales. The fact is that no one likes being nagged. If you’re networking with the intention of selling your product or service, taking a pull based approach will establish you as having value and will allow the prospect to feel good about making an educated purchasing decision.
11. Be Willing to Learn
Never be the smartest guy in the room. Understand that everyone knows something more than you do about something. Be willing to learn from people and to gracefully accept criticism. Learning to integrate suggestion into whatever you do will only effect your positively. Chances are that someone making a suggestion on how you can improve an aspect of your business or product is not making a personal attack on you. Be happy that they are willing to consult with you for free!
12. A Debate Is NOT an Argument
Accept that having a difference of opinion is a good thing. A friendly debate will explore and examine a topic in great detail and will offer the opportunity to learn more about what is being discussed. Be careful when debating though. A debate can quickly trigger people’s emotions in a negative way and could potentially turn into an argument. Know when to step away from something that is causing too much friction and/or change the topic.
13. Get Some Contacts / Make Some Friends
You’re here to expand your circle so don’t be afraid to ask for contact information. This should be a natural progression in a networking event and never forced. If you feel like it IS forced to ask for someone’s contact information, you haven’t established enough of a relationship or report with them yet. Make a judgement call and either try and develop the relationship further or cut your losses.
14. ALWAYS Follow Up
Now that you have their contact information, send them a friendly email. Keep it short and sweet, mention that it was good meeting them and you look forward to hearing back from them. If you’ve developed a strong enough connection with the person reference something from your previous conversation that encourage the dialogue to continue.
15. Make Some Plans
If you’re planning on doing more networking, ask an interesting contact to join you for a particular event. Maybe grabbing a quick lunch or coffee would be good idea to develop the relationship further. Think of a relationship like a plant. It needs nourishment. However, giving it too much water will drown it while not giving it enough will also cause it to die. Keep this in mind when developing relationships that can be beneficial to your business.