It is simply up to you to initiate contact. That is worth repeating, it is up to you to initiate contact. Alternatively stated, DO NOT wait (or expect) others to make contact with you. Making contact is 100% your obligation, if you want a productive experience.
There is no magic to initiating contact. It only involves three simple things:
- Make meaningful eye contact with people, where you look at them and they look you back in the eye. There is nothing strange about this. It is completely human.
- With eye contact established, smile. This is not a forced smile, but a genuine “it is good to see you” smile. Chances are, human nature will kick in and they will smile back.
- With that eye contact and a smile, simply say, “hello.” They may say “hello” in return, or they may say nothing.
Whatever the case, it was your objection (as well as sole obligation) to initiate contact. You have done that. Congratulations.
This sounds simple and it is. Nevertheless, this may be a little out of your comfort zone. If it is, here is a great way to practice. Go anywhere there are people (for example, shopping) and simply naturally wander around making eye contact, smiling, and saying, “hello.” It may seem unnatural at first, but in time you will develop a level of comfort that you can utilize in a more professional setting.
At networking events appropriately position yourself. In fishing, you go to where the fish are or will be. In networking, the same logic holds. Stand where you will most likely be amongst people. Near the entrance. At the buffet or bar. Close to other high traffic areas.
If you stand outside the main stream of human flow (or worse, sit off to the side), you virtually eliminate your opportunity for having anything come from the networking event – immediately or ever.
Assuming you have positioned yourself appropriately you will encounter people. Like a
parade, from your position people will go meandering by.
According to research, among the fears of a great many people are …
- Death By Fire;
- Public Speaking; and
- Vacationing With In-Laws
Shortly behind those is finding ones self in a room of total strangers. And, even if you don’t fear that situation, you might NOT be totally comfortable with it. But it does not have to be this way.
The first thing to ensure that you overcome the anxiety of being at events is to Have The Right Frame of Mind. While this might not need mentioning, there are plenty of people who trip themselves up at networking events before they even actually show up.
First, remember that networking works. At any particular event it might not work exactly how you want it, but before you embark on the networking event, you need to truly believe that the networking process works and your mere presence has set that in motion.
While your mere presence is important, you will totally undermine your efforts if you bring with you anything but a positive disposition. No, not every day (month or year, for that matter) can be a good one, however, there is something good about each. Reflect on the positive aspects of your personal and professional life. Do what you can to be of uplifting spirits. Remember, while support groups can be a networking opportunity, most networking events are not designed to be support groups. Leave your worries at the door, to the extent possible.
Finally, embark on any networking event that a sincere expectation will come from it. Now, it might not be all that you hoped for (after all there is no guarantee) or even likelihood that you will get a client out of it. Know this, however, something will come from you being there. You might meet someone that can refer you clients. You might meet someone that puts you one step closer to that. You might reconnect with a former client or center of influence. You might gain a piece of information that holds all sorts of value. There is a plethora of potential benefit that can come from any networking event. You will never get it all, but you will always likely get something.
As a business person, you need things today (clients, information, and contacts). Guess what? You are going to need them tomorrow, and the next day, and next year. Thus, creating and nurturing productive relationships is an ongoing endeavor. Your job is never done.
Know this: Some days your networking efforts are going to seem worthwhile. It is easy to keep after it. Other days your networking efforts are going to seem like a complete waste. You will want to swear it off. Don’t.
You need to have faith. Opportunity comes from the most unlikely places and it is all the result of productive relationships. Never quit trying to build Know, Like, and Trust.
To summarize, remember to be successful at anything, knowledge is important. What is vital, however, is being proficient at networking. Networking, though, is about building solid relationship where people know you, like you, and trust you. Those things are achieved through certain actions and interactions with those in your network. These actions involve consistent generosity, reliability, and commitment to others, just to mention a few.