For ages, experts have commonly accepted that networking is only for the brave, hypersocial extroverts who love to be the center of attention. Almost everyone else pretty much sucks at it.
Enhancv PROs aim to counter that stereotype and show you that networking is a mixture of social, verbal, and non-verbal communication and interpersonal skills that anyone can master, just like you can prepare and rock your interview performance. Hence, no more beating yourself up, feeling like networking is not your thing and your personality predisposition destined you to find business opportunities in other ways.
In this article, we will take you through the ins and outs of smooth, pleasant, and - most of all - successful networking with addressing:
Inner state & outer expression
- The Looks
- The body language
- The myth of the “social butterfly”
- Follow great networking examples
- Build a networking team
- Mix offline and virtual networking
Your aces on the table & getting what you came for
- The power of personal names and REMEMBERING them
- Your Sell-sentence
- Follow-up & Connection expansion
- Rinse and repeat - the marketing funnel of networking
First things first:
Inner State & outer expression
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Networking is a prepared environment. So you have to go prepared too to reap maximum results. Let's put everything in order, starting with the looks. It is not a secret that clothes powerfully drive others` impressions of us and their desire or lack thereof to interact with us. That being said, aim for a presentable, polished look that is classy, feels natural to you, and is comfortable. It is not fun to speak to a prominent new connection while trying to fix - AGAIN - that top button of your shirt. You get the idea.
Depending on the event, your outfit can be something other than business-y. However, the general rule is to go for clothes synchronized to the ambiance rather than out-of-place ones, making you look like you don't belong there.
Of course, there could be exceptions here. For example, in an artistic environment of painters, there is often no specific dress code, so experimenting with looks can be well-tolerated. This also guarantees that people will remember you. However, you want to be for remembered the right reasons. So we still advise you to proceed cautiously and choose only one accessory, highlighting your style - a fancy hat, glasses, belt, or artsy jewel.
The body language
While, as body language expert Kestenberg says, not everyone can have a big kinesphera - range of movement and charismatic hold of an audience, anyone can still apply these simple guidelines for pleasant face-to-face contact:
- A firm handshake with a look in the eyes;
- Warm, inviting smile - very desirable as the first non-verbal cue;
- Straight, not hunched back;
- Maintaining eye contact throughout the conversation;
- Open, body posture oriented towards our conversation partner/s;
- And a sparkly bonus: vivid facial expressions and hand gestures to fortify the rapport building.
The myth of the “social butterfly”
We at Enhancv believe that the myth of the social butterfly causes camera-shy or introverted individuals to be more conscious than needed and self-censoring when it comes to attending, let alone connection-building at networking events. Furthermore, research shows that introverts often feel like other people try to change them or even suggest something is wrong with them.
So rather than forcing yourself to come up as a social butterfly, which will 99,9% be perceived as faking it or trying too hard, we advise you to bet on authenticity. Moreover, globally there are around 50 and 74% of extroverts worldwide. In other words, at the same event, at least 30% of the attendees feel awkward making contact, just like you. Good news - that will immediately calm down your shy nature and allow you to focus on pulling your expert skillset power to the forefront.
Follow great networking examples
Whether you would opt for consulting one of the Enhancv experts, following a LinkedIn course on Networking, or diving into Youtube videos` tips and tricks, we are social animals, so we are uncanny good at learning through seeing and repetition. Another great scenario to play with if you are still a newbie to Networking is to attend a few events first and focus more on observing rather than scoring with creating X amount of new connections. That way, you will steam off some of the performance stress and be much better prepared for your next event thanks to observing firsthand and partly internalizing some of the moves, approaches, and body disposition of great networkers you saw. How cool?
Build a networking team - call your wing girls and boys
You can take your game further if you have a friend or colleague who is fabulous at sparkling connections with ease. Bring them to the event and work together in a team. That way, you can permanently retrain your brain against networking anxiety with fun interactions in the company of someone you trust, plus you will practice and learn a few new tricks.
Mix offline and virtual networking
Of course, we must mention virtual networking. For best results, you should always aim to combine both, even though we are sure you have your preferences for either one of the two. Needless to say, LinkedIn's potential is limitless. So even if you decide to center your efforts only there without exploring other networks and apps, there is enough fish in the sea for everyone. A few crucial success rules for LinkedIn:
- Complete your profile to triple your chances of hits;
- Refine your personal and professional branding by considering a LinkedIn profile revamp;
- Always proofread your outreach messages;
- Offer something in return to your connections;
- Be open for new collaborations, chats, and meetups;
- Send one note, and try not to push with a reminder until you receive a response first;
- Write to your (potential) connections during their business hours while avoiding weekends and off-work timezones, which could be triggering;
- Don't use LinkedIn messaging to chase people directly and only for job opportunities unless they are listed as a contact for a specific job role - after all, no one likes feeling like they are being used as a means to an end;
- Regularly publish on your profile - meaningful, concise, valuable posts for your network;
- Interact in public discussions and share your experts' opinions on industry-relevant posts;
- Join professional groups;
- Attend virtual events of your interest - as many as you can.
After we have taken care of your emotional prep before the networking - which is already half of the success, let`s pay attention to the nitty-gritty of your actions at the event.
Your aces on the table & getting what you came for
Icebreakers have a lot in common with pick-up lines. You better make it light, fun, and engaging. Take your time; we guarantee you will leave a lasting impression following Enhancv tips. Indeed, anyone remembers a very bad or dull pick-up? Well, how to avoid making this mistake when networking. We have several scenarios for you, depending on your personality and social interaction tastes.
Shining the spotlight on your connection
- Make them a compliment for appearance, award, speech, publication, etc.;
- Share that you admire their work;
- Ask for professional advice;
- Show interest in their job specifics;
- Be curious about their top 3 successes/achievements
Goal: The beauty of this approach is that it gives others a chance to feel seen and valued by talking about their TOP strengths. That also works for connection and rapport building between you and your respondent on a deep unconscious level.
The Bold and the Beautiful” type
- Rather than plotting in advance what to say, introduce yourself. For example: "Hi, my name is Ida, a Fashion designer at Pronovias. So pleased to meet you!"
Goal: Anyone can feel the charismatic power such an approach gives you. If you feel perky and in the mood, give it a try and have a few further questions in mind to shoot after this grand opening.
- If the spotlight approach seems too cheesy for you and the bold one - too bold, you can always direct the attention to the surroundings. Share your personal experience and observation, and don't forget to finish with an open-ended question, if possible. For example:
"I loved the speech of X! Are you also as big a public speaking lover as I am?";
"What a magnificent decoration they prepared for this year's party. How do you find it?";
"I love this venue. Are you here for the first time?";
"What a multitude of useful info. How did you experience the last part of the workshop?
Goal: Out of the three icebreakers, this is probably the most stress-reducing one for the two parties as it takes the attention away from the personal and professional selves of both and puts them in an observer rather than performer state. It might be wise to choose this approach if you want to chat up a prospect connection that seems a bit shy.
The power of personal names and remembering them
Well, this point does not need much further explanation. Addressing someone by name is a powerful and instant connection builder, apart from a sign of respect. Hence, you should make a conscious effort and take a mental note to remember the name of the person you are meeting. We know - that requires putting the breaks on your performance anxiety and the eagerness to tell your name! But - trust us - it is so worth it! Especially it also saves you from the situation where you are about to wrap up the conversation and move to another interaction. If you remembered their name, you wouldn't be mumbling: "Mmm, … it was nice meeting you,….sorry, what was your name, by the way?"
As before you go to an interview, it is wise to ponder how you would answer the all-time favorite question of all HRs, “Tell me about yourself,” at a networking event; you also need to go prepared. Ideally, you would choose one sell-sentence that presents you and your occupation with your number 1 strength. For example, “I`m Mark. I fix server issues all day long, so customers can enjoy the best Amazon experience. And I love traveling.”
That light-hearted way of talking about your professional edge portrays you as both modest and expert, commands a positive impression, and simultaneously gives the other the liberty to be playful.
Follow-up and connection expansion
Sometimes networking can be as surprising a fountain of opportunities as life is. Another expert can approach you on LinkedIn or at an onsite event, which can soon grow into a profitable deal for your company or private practice. However, for that to happen, you need to participate actively in networking. The secrets to successful and also profitable networking are:
- Being open and approachable;
- Appreciate every expert reaching out;
- Do respond timely to the InMails, emails, and texts, even if, at the moment, you don't envision a potential partnership;
- Propose/schedule/accept meetups and online intro chats;
- Solidify the contact by sending a follow-up Thank you email/message after interacting with an interesting new connection online or at a physical event, making sure to say you enjoyed meeting them;
- Offer in your follow-up an article, white paper, or report that you know will be meaningful for them;
- Occasionally share industry news and stay open to collaborations to keep growing your professional interaction and relationship.
Many experts say business cards are a mandatory attribute for networking success. However, in the day and age of personal branding and influencers boom, your best business card is your PRO preparation and the consistency to follow up and take the time and effort to transform your new connections into stable business relationships. Without this, even the flashier business card will go in the bin sooner or later.
Rinse and repeat - the marketing funnel of networking
Now, you are equipped with the success kit of Enhancv for wide networking success, regardless of your experience or your personality type. Follow the above golden rules and remember that “practice makes it perfect.” Lastly, we invite you to view networking as your success marketing funnel. According to HubSpot, 85% of jobs are filled through networking.
The guidance above is not a one-off. Rinse and repeat every time, and you will soon build a vast network of prominent connections that enhance your professional development and vice versa. Good luck, and have fun!
Make one that's truly you.