Speaking up at Networking Events is simpler than you think.
Networking events or events and meetings with a networking element can be really off putting to many people, because they don’t know what to say, don’t know where to start or how to introduce themselves.
I often hear “I am OK once I get going but….” insert excuse “I would rather hide in the toilets than speak to strangers/ I wait until someone talks to me / only go with someone I know…”
Firstly ‘You are not alone’ this is a natural reaction to a room full of strangers. The key is to be prepared and have a few strategies prepared.
Find out if there are any potential clients or connections attending. Figure out who they are, search or LinkedIn and even contact them to say you hope to meet up at the event. If this feels to bold maybe try to write a list of who you want to meet. This will keep you focused and will get you prepared for the next step.
Don’t arrive late.
That’s not Mrs. Manners just talking. Arriving on time and showing that you value the event, the event organisers time, are keen to meet people is worth the effort. It also gives you a chance to meet people beforehand an event starts and say let’s catch up after the speaker/ dinner if you want to.
Who do you talk to?
This is another common problem. You may have to play social detective. If at all possible find someone you recognize, however if they are in deep conversation wait until you can be welcomed in. The easiest thing to do is look for a group of three or more. This way one person can say hello to you, the person talking can continue un interrupted and the third can listen. Look for a group where someone isn’t very engaged, their face or body language will indicate they are open to a new person.
Now it’s time to use the prepared mini speeches you have in your tool box.
Small Talk and introductions – the Escalator Pitch
Groan I hear you say? Ice breakers are often small talk in disguise but keep it relevant if talking to strangers. Best option “Hi there I am XYZ this is my first time at this event I am really impressed with it so far, what about you?” Something like this, is open friendly, positive and asks them an easy to answer question.
Elevator Pitches are a useful basis for the introductions you need to do at Networking type events. I believe they should be the basis not the fall back of choice. Elevator pitches are great if you are job hunting, a sales person or are speed dating. Escalator speeches maybe more useful. Escalators are slower are usually more social and can travel at different speeds but take longer. So is your networking event introduction. Its more fluid, two or even three ways. But if your goal is to meet you potential clients or customers then you need to keep it on track.
Have some great stories of the company success (or personal success) Use the company language and tone. There is no point sounding like a BBC presenter if you are a McDonalds Employee. Live and love the brand.
Smile and the whole world smiles with you
It’s true, it works a charm and cost nothing. People will be more welcoming and think more positively of you if you smile. You only have 10 seconds to make a good first impression, so even if you don’t say anything they will at least remember your smile.
Everyone likes talking about themselves
It’s true, because it’s easier to talk about ourselves than others. So be the one to ask questions and find out about what they do, after you have impressed them with your self-introduction.
Remember that in general men like highlights, achievements and sports talk. Women lean more towards people you know in common, things you have in common and current events.
You can prepare for this if you are going to be in a male or female dominated event.
Networking at a Networking Event
If you are going to an event that is promoted as a one. Be even more prepared. Have business cards on the ready, a phone charged to take photos to post to social media or exchange contacts and make appointments. Ask for the attendee list if it isn’t given to you in advance.
In our digital world, this is now an essential step. Send the Linked IN request, follow their business on Facebook or them on Instagram, share something they are promoting. Go again, that’s right you need to attend the event again and even again before you get a strong association. Monthly meetings are great for this so get them in your calendar and attend them.
Networking is a contact sport
Like any sport you can learn and train to get better at it, you can just ‘pull on your big girl pants’ take a deep breath and say “I can do this”. Reward yourself afterwards. Like any form of public speaking there is an element of muscle memory. The more you do it the easier it gets, you make get rusty, but you can get back in the flow. You can also use social events as practice both for your mind set and your introductions. Practice smiling, looking at people, answering questions well and saying prepared escalator pitches. You will be surprised how quickly you settle into them andbuild your confidence.