Professionals agree that networking has a vital role to play in business, an Oxford study found that 5%-20% of new customers come from trade shows. Despite the value it can offer, many people turn down the opportunity to network because of fear or discomfort. While feeling intimidated by networking is common, it can be avoided by changing your mindset and putting less pressure on yourself. Instead of focusing solely on coming away with a long list of contacts, try to make a few meaningful connections. The key to connection when you’re networking, is conversation.
Here are expert conversation tips to ace communication.
Experts stress the importance of being prepared, so before you head to a networking event review industry news, current events, and business trends. As you prepare, consider how you can take conversation past small talk. Debra Fine – author of The Fine Art of Small Talk, suggests you “come up with three things to talk about as well as four generic questions that will get others talking.” This should range from basic questions to thorough multi-fold inquires that you can build on. When you put your icebreakers into practice, remember to start every conversation with a clear intention.
How you’re perceived by others, is largely dependent on your ability to showcase confidence. Research shows that executives base decisions on the confidence level of speakers. You’re more likely to make an impact by articulating certainty and speaking with conviction.
It’s important to be assertive, but it’s more important to be attentive when networking.
Consider how you can connect with what’s being said to you. Display genuine interest by sharing advice, anecdotes, and solutions. You can even offer a personal connection who could be a help. The more you’re able to listen, understand, and assist, the more trust you will develop.
One advantage of networking in person, is body language. When you’re listening, the person you’re speaking with is evaluating your body language. Your stance, eye contact, and facial expression are vital to a positive experience. About 55% of people say that facial expressions influence their perception, and agree that body language makes face-to-face meetings a more credible experience. Another physical factor is eye contact. On average, people make eye contact around 30%-60% of the time, to make a meaningful connection, studies suggest that eye contact should occur 60%-70% of the time.
Keep in Touch
Communication doesn’t stop when you leave an event. To maintain a good relationship with your connections, you should follow up ideally within a few days, to a week after meeting. After the initial follow up, you should reach out quarterly to maintain your relationship. This is when it’s best to leverage social media like LinkedIn.
By updating your LinkedIn profile regularly with meaningful content, you can stay relevant with minimal effort. Messaging on LinkedIn has led 35% of networkers to new opportunities which makes it a great tool to solidify a connection.
By facilitating communication you can unlock the value of networking.