Hello. In this video, we're going to explore some simple communication techniques to help you approach face-to-face networking with more confidence.
The main benefits of face-to-face networking compared with online networking is being in the physical presence of the person or people you are hoping to connect with. By physically interacting with and engaging others, you experience a connection simply not available through online networking. Body language, tone of voice, facial expression, and eye contact are all elements of interpersonal communication that we take for granted, but which contributes to the richness of the face-to-face networking experience.
An important skill is recognising when there is an opportunity to network and then acting on it. If you're nervous about starting or engaging in networking, don't panic. Even though it may not seem it, most people are nervous to a degree about starting a conversation and networking with others. However, as your confidence grows and you start approaching more people, your network will start to expand.
I think naturally everybody's quite nervous about networking to start with. You don't quite know what to expect. And I think often, people feel that networking is walking into a big room of people, none of whom that you know, and you need to be fabulously interesting, and that you need to have spoken to everybody in the room before you left. Over time, I realised that actually, it wasn't necessarily that was how networking happened. It can often be one-to-one with people. It can be people that you meet quite in unusual circumstances.
I think it's fair to say that some people have got the personalities that'll definitely help with networking. Maybe you've got that kind of natural trait that you're very much of a confident kind of communicator. But then in other aspects, if you're kind of new to networking, those skills might not be ready there just yet. You may just need to develop your confidence. And I think that's where planning and preparation can be really key.
Sometimes-- I'll be totally truthful-- I've prepared for some events and spend quite a lot of time gathering information and planning and preparing for that key meeting, not used any information I've actually gathered. But the actual cycle of the planning and the preparing enabled me to go into that meeting far more confident and relaxed. And that, in a way, was, I suppose, like a coping mechanism. So sometimes the planning and preparing is a good way to just build yourself up to that event rather than walk into it completely cold.
So with face-to-face networking, I've been to numerous entry events, conferences, meet-ups as well. And they've been really insightful because you have your day of insights and trends where you're discussing different topics. But at the end, you have a bit of wind down time. You get a bit of face-to-face interaction with different people. And that's really useful because one, it's a touch point to speak to them about the day's activities. And also, you can find out what they're doing specifically and their job roles.
I think anybody who's not so confident, I think confidence is something that we learn over time. I think it's maybe when you arrive in the room, look for a friendly face. Quite often, that person may actually know other people in the room that they're then able to introduce you to, and then the whole thing becomes a lot less scary.
So how do you minimise the initial stress of starting a networking conversation with people you don't know?
Firstly, the key to effective networking is to prepare. Assess the situation. Who will be there, and what would you like to achieve? Try to find out in advance about any people you might know there, or if there's someone you'd like to speak to who might be going. If there are people there you already know, seek them out first. It's often much less nerve-racking to be introduced to a new contact via a friend.
Once a networking event is underway, and if you don't like the idea of joining a big group, approach someone individually. You may find others more willingly join you in a smaller group. Plus, smaller groups offer a chance to have more detailed conversations.
If you aren't confident in taking centre stage, then play to your strengths and listen to others by asking open-ended questions. People appreciate a good listener, and often enjoy talking about themselves, sometimes too much. Letting others do the talking will give you time to think of something useful to contribute to the conversation. And finally, whenever you're networking, remember to take a break. It can be tiring listening intently and answering other people's questions, so make sure that you escape the room every now and then.
- The benefits of face-to-face networking
- Examples of how to gain networking experience
- Tips for making networking less stressful