Meeting new people can be intimidating; especially if you’re an introvert or have social anxiety. But, many extroverts talk too much and dominate conversations.
While most networking events are perceived as swiping business cards, feeling lost in a crowded room, having to sell yourself while sipping mediocre wine, switching your mindset before, during, and after will help.
Before attending events, research the venue, review the attendees, if possible, to determine how your background and skillsets can help others. Also, think about it as a chance to make new friends and business colleagues.
Always dress in the way you’re most comfortable. Since I hate wearing heels, I choose ballerinas, or sandals (during summers). My fashion statement is stacked colorful bracelets, and interesting accessories which add personality to simple single color dresses.
For men, some are more comfortable in suits, or blazers, and make statements with their ties. Don’t try too hard because people will sense it. If you’re your authentic self, people will trust you.
I’ve always loved the quote, “Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark.” – Jay Danzie. This applies to networking, meeting people, engaging and building meaningful relationships.
Stand Out in A Crowded Marketplace
Living and working in New York City offers endless networking events, many of which are national, including Network After Work-Business/Professional Networking, Meet up, Public Relations Association of America, Business Network International (BNI), The National Association of Professional Women, American Marketing Association and industry-specific groups.
As a veteran of corporate, agency, consulting and now, Founder and CEO of a marketing, public relations, social and digital media agency, I’ve worked with clients across many B2B and B2C industry sectors.
When I attended my first Network After Work Networking event, the organizers had a huge board with colored nametags for industry sectors. Red was agency. Green was technology. Blue was entrepreneur. Light blue was finance and many other colors for different professions. Many people were confused about which color to choose.
I chose two name tags: agency and entrepreneur. Interestingly, this single action became a huge conversation-starter. Strangers said to me, “Wow, you’re wearing two name tags, I wasn’t even sure about which one to choose.” And, “If you’re an agency, why are you wearing entrepreneur?”
Unknowingly, I differentiated myself. Next time, I put on more colored nametags since I had worked in many professions. When I went to the next event, I did the same thing, but this time, I scanned the room ahead of time. All the men wore suits and were in groups. The women were scattered around the room.
I decided to break up every male cluster and said, “Hi, I’m Wendy Glavin. I wanted to break up this male cluster.” They laughed and we discussed sports. When networking, focus on making a connection based on common interests; movies, family, travel, books and any other topics that will provide a glimpse into the person.
In Forbes May 30, 2018, “Ten Cringe-Worthy Networking Mistakes That Will Make You an Outcast” the author describes the top ten best tips for polite networking and the ten worst networking mistakes. Here are the ten worst (which I’ve shortened):
Ten Things a Networker Must Never Do
1. Never add someone to your mailing list or newsletter subscriber list without asking their permission.
2. Never spam anyone in their LinkedIn inbox.
3. Never turn a new acquaintance into a business prospect.
4. Never use a contact's name to get a self-introduction.
5. Never ask a stranger for a LinkedIn endorsement or recommendation.
6. Never invite someone to meet based on your preferences. Ask for theirs instead.
7. Never call or write to a stranger and ask them for help.
8. If you invite someone to lunch or coffee, pay the tab.
9. Never start a networking conversation by announcing what you need (a job, sales leads, etc.).
10. Do not bring your resume, a to-do list or a list of people you want to meet.
Now, it’s easy to make connections on social media platforms which are a community for sharing. After meeting in-person it’s important to follow people on LinkedIn or Twitter if you have things in-common.
You can continue conversations, or start new ones when you like (not anonymously) an article on Linked, and share someone’s content on Twitter and Facebook business pages. Use hashtags on Instagram based on the post with emoji’s such as smiley faces, thumbs-up, sports, foods, flowers, travel, and hearts for friends and close colleagues.
With social media, you’re able to expand and build your connections and relationships. For many, it’s an easier way to network because it’s not in-person.
Whether we like it or not, we meet people every day. You can practice the same tips in the supermarket, while shopping, playing sports, and meet people organically. The other day, when I was in CVS, I noticed a well-dressed guy in his 30’s. One of my older son’s is interested in men’s fashion. I said to the guy, “Can I ask a favor? My son likes fashion would you mind if I took a picture of your outfit to show him?” He agreed and we walked out of the store together and talked.
Ryan is an interior designer for Wall Street executives, and I’m interested in décor. Ryan’s interested in marketing and public relations. We spoke on the street for nearly an hour about our common interests and exchanged numbers.
When we discovered we live two blocks from one another, I said, “This is not a pick-up as I have boys nearly your age. But, would you want to meet for a drink one night?” Ryan said, “Sure, I’d love that.” Later, when I shared the story with friends they said, “That’s a great pick-up line!”
Be open, creative and honest. Even if you’re shy, just like anything, if you practice it will become easier to network and meet new people. And most importantly, make it fun.