Networking can take years of experience before you become comfortable—longer until you feel like an expert. For someone who is new to the industry, socially anxious, or just a little out of their comfort zone, networking can seem overwhelming.
It’s important to remember that many people are in the same boat (and often feeling anxious themselves!). When it comes down to it, others in the room will be happy when you take the initiative to introduce yourself first. The following tips can help you make a valuable impression.
The way you introduce yourself is key. According to best-selling author Brian Tracy, you have four seconds to shape someone’s initial impression of you, and thirty seconds before their impression is fully formed. If you’re nervous, the American Psychological Association recommends keeping your voice level and focusing on the fact that your career and accomplishments are why you are there.
One common mistake at conferences is looking at someone’s nametag first, instead of making eye contact. This habit implies that knowing someone’s occupation or place of work is more important than looking them in the eye when first saying hello. Give a firm handshake, maintain eye contact, and smile as you introduce yourself. This shows both confidence and openness.
Of course, if you think you recognize them, a glance at their nametag is fine, but maintaining strong eye contact throughout your introductions will leave a lasting impression.
The “elevator pitch” is the part of the introduction when you explain what you do professionally. Focus on a few sentences (thirty seconds or less) that concisely outline your company and what you do. The best pitches speak specifically to how your business solves problems, instead of stating its services.
For example, saying, “I run a web design company,” is not nearly as compelling as, “I help small e-commerce businesses create effective user experiences that lead to more sales and conversions.”
According to sales expert Chris O’Leary, make sure your pitch follows the “9 C’s,” which include conciseness, clarity, credibility, and consistency.
It’s a fact: People love to talk about themselves. It’s likely part vanity, but more about being comfortable. After all, everyone is an expert on themselves.
When networking at an industry event, use this to your advantage: Ask a lot of questions. Make it easier to grow the conversation organically. Even if you’ve exhausted industry topics or questions, ask about the person’s travels to get to the event or what they enjoy doing outside of work. Family and trending books or articles the person may have read recently can also be easy topics to discuss.
No matter what industry event you’re going to, it’s important to consider your appearance. Like it or not, first impressions are also built on the way you look. Be sure to dress appropriately for the event.
No matter what the dress code is, choose an outfit and hairstyle that makes you feel your best. Being confident about your appearance will naturally improve your posture, which has been proven to have a positive impact on a strangers impression of you.
Making a habit of networking at industry events can help you become more confident, grow industry connections, and increase your business’ reach. Focus on why you’re there and how you can help others in the room, and you’ll be sure have tons of great conversations with like-minded people.