I am not by nature a super-social person. Not that I suffer from any social-anxiety dysfunction or anything but I tend to be an inward-thinking person who tends to process and do critical thinking internally. I like to process first, express second. Many people process verbally first and unlike me, they love to be in social settings where they can process to their heart’s delight.
If you’re more like me, you need to force yourself to network. It’s important because most business connections are made this way. This places you in the less-than-comfortable position of meeting, greeting, shaking hands, and spending time with those verbal processors. The thing is, networking effectively is mission-critical if you’re in business - and this includes those of you in business as non-profit or school administrators. You must be out there, be known, pass out cards, do some verbal processing; if you don’t, you won’t be given any contracts that play to your internal processing strengths.
- Practice being a “there you are” person, rather than a “here I am” person. Force yourself to make eye contact and make the first approach. Many people feel just as fearful as you do about making the first contact and they’ll be relieved that someone has taken the pressure off of them by making the contact.
- Avoid alcohol in places where you are networking. If you’re kind of an internal processor anyway, you may find that drinking isn’t helping you open up, at least, not in ways that are helpful to building business connections.
- Be sure to carry lots of cards with you! These can help spur conversation about your business. I can be bad about this so I am constantly putting a couple into my wallet since it’s everywhere I am except the shower
- Take a verbal processor with you and dovetail off his or her natural gift.
- Work on using some active listening techniques. Respond to what is being discussed with clarifying questions or summary statements. This helps keep your mind in the conversation and truly creates a connection to the other person.
- Keep moving to contact as many people in the event as possible. Don’t stay in a mini-conference with one or two people, or with people you already know. Work the room!
- You don’t need to talk only about business, networking can also be social, so if something cool is happening your life it’s OK to share it. remember, the whole point of networking is to establish relationships.
So don’t hesitate to find those opportunities to get out and shake hands. You want to be memorable so put on your best duds, polish that smile, and walk in the room with the “there you are!” attitude.