When I was first introduced to business networking, like most people I didn’t know what on earth the rules of the game were. I noticed a lot of people had their own style of introducing themselves to people and over the years it’s become pretty clear that everyone has a slightly different approach to what is, essentially, a bit of a challenge for most of us. So which style do you tend to adopt? And are you using that style in the best way?
Listening is a great tool in networking – socially and professionally. Listeners are great for making people feel welcome and making friends. It’s good to balance out the listening by making sure that you’re asking questions and making sure at some point people find out what you do. If your style is listening more than talking, you’ll always be popular, and if your style isn’t talking about your business, make sure your card stands out and is very clear about what you do.
This style of networking often happens when someone is nervous – which is understandable because walking into a room full of strangers can be well out of most people’s comfort zone. Broadcasters tend to talk a lot, often about themselves or their business. It can be an effective style if you have some interesting things to say, but it can also be frowned upon if you come across as though you’re talking ‘at’ people. Though most people would think this style doesn’t work at all – I’ve seen some people really carry it off. You need to have a big personality and a lot of charisma, but it can be very useful if it’s a one off networking meeting and you don’t have a lot of time.
Sometimes you walk into a networking group and you can’t seem to be mingle very much. Even the best of us can end up standing quietly by the coffee table trying to catch someone’s eye. It’s not the best style to use, but you tend to find that you can end up talking to the most well connected people – because they’re the ones that will spot you standing on your own and will understand how you feel. Unfortunately the flip side is that you can also end up talking to only one person for the entirety of the meeting. The key, if this is your style, is to make lots of eye contact. It makes you more approachable and generally people are pretty nice if you’re obviously shy.
A good connector will a) know lots of people and b) want to help people as much as possible. They’ll be the ones making introductions and trying to put people at ease. If you’re a wallflower, these people will help you out. To be a good connector you need to make sure that while you’re helping people they also realise what you do. It’s very easy to be a great contact and for people to just remember you as “that nice person that introduced me to Bob”. Having an interesting name badge that starts a conversation about what you do is a good idea, though this style is great if you’re part of a group that meets regularly.
The Card Collector
Collecting cards is a very useful thing to do if it’s done in the right way. Make sure you’re also interested in the people behind the card and can remember who they are. It’s also good to have a clear idea of the kinds of people you can help who also might be able to help you. But be careful of how you hand out your card. If you’re just “getting the word out there” with your card, the results may not be great and you can end up not being remembered. If you’re nervous, try asking people about their card/logo/company and try to make a bit of a connection with people.
These are the people who just have it all. That nice easy-going demeanour, though they can come across as a little shy at times, they make people laugh and they accumulate friends wherever they go. It’s a pretty difficult one to cultivate if you aren’t already a bit of a Magnet. If you can adopt this style then you’ve got it made, just carry on with what you’re doing and it’ll work for you. Remember to get people’s contact details and visa versa so you can really build up your contacts long term and try to stay in touch as much as possible.
The Social Butterfly
If you’re at a social event then being the proverbial butterfly can be a fun. If you know lots of guests then sometimes you do have to speak briefly to lots of people to get around them all. In a business networking meeting it can work too, but it’s important to explain to people why you’re flitting around a lot. Make sure you make time for people you don’t know as well and where possible meet people another time to catch up properly. People often talk about having a wide network versus a deep network – in other words knowing lots of people sometimes isn’t as effective as knowing people very well. Make sure you’re not just skimming the surface and make real connections as well and you can really make this networking style work for you.
Whatever your style, making sure you get the right balance of listening and talking is essential.
For more information about how to really shine at networking meetings contact us for a free telephone coaching session.