Show season is on and it’s time to get networking! As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, it’s surprising how few people actually enjoy attending networking functions or putting themselves out there at industry meet ‘n' greets. Even the most confident people can be shy about their networking ability. So how can you become better connected and expand your network if you feel uncomfortable about it?
The simple answer is this: fake it ‘til you make it! In coaching we call this ‘acting as if’, and a funny thing happens when you act ‘as if’ you are confident and enjoy networking - the very act of playing out this behaviour actually does begin to trick you into feeling that you really are more confident and do enjoy networking. And the more you encourage yourself to strike up conversations and meet the right people, the easier it becomes.
When you take on a confident and self-assured approach, you empower yourself to network more effectively and further your professional connections. Here are a few tips to help you become a more confident networker: Radiate energy and a competitive edge. Remember you are building your reputation at these events, so give people a reason to remember you. If you are full of good energy and show you are passionate about what you do, people will feel you’re worth getting to know.
Imagine you’re on stage. Think about it: a networking even is a ‘real life stage’ where people meet and play out their stories. Be aware that people are watching and listening to what you say, and think about putting on your very best performance to create a lasting impression. Although you are ‘acting as if’ you still need to come across as a genuine person. One way to do this is to give people your undivided attention. By directing your focus onto the other person you will be less self-conscious and won’t become distracted by everything going on around you. It’s really important to channel your energy into listening to what people say so you can respond in a relevant and interested way. Take your time to come up with a thoughtful response that reflects your expertise and shows you were listening. Make sure you ask interested questions, but pay attention to the answers as there is nothing worse than someone asking a question you just answered moments earlier.
Turn the spotlight on the people around you and make them feel special, and they will find you more interesting as well. Be aware that sadness can be perceived negatively in a networking situation. Even if you’re going through a really tough time in your personal or professional life, it’s not a good idea to talk about it with people you’ve just met. Make sure you project a positive image that displays strength, integrity and positive energy so people will have confidence in you and enjoy spending time with you.
Body language matters so think about how you look to others. Stand up straight, make good eye contact and hold your space. A firm handshake is also very important - you want to give the impression you are confident and that you believe in yourself. Remember, you don’t need to be at your “networking best” all of the time – only when it matters. So when you’re at events, sharpen your networking skills and fake it ‘til you make it. It’s all about having fun and building your industry connections in the process.
Do you have any tips on how to fake it ‘till you make it? If you do, please share them in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!