If you want to up your networking game, read on.
I have always looked at networking as an investment in time to find people I want to be surrounded by.
As Tony Robbins and many others say, you are who you surround yourself with.
Sure, social media platforms are a great place to meet people, but meeting people IRL at networking events is a skill that you should hone.
People ask me for my networking tips all the time. So I’ve taken the time to pull together my 10 favorite networking hacks to share with you.
# 1 Choose What You Wear
When it comes to meeting people you’ve never met before, first impressions are the most important impressions. Believe it or not, it’s not only what you wear, but what specific colors you wear. If you’ve never gotten your colors done or don’t know the color palette appropriate for your hair, skin, and body type, you may be wearing the wrong things.
Clothes can make you look good or bad depending on how they interact with your own personal features. One pro networking tip is to have full control over what people think about you before you even say anything. You can do this by strategically choosing your outfit and sending signals that let people know exactly what you’re all about.
What do you want to be known for? What are your clothes saying about your personal brand? Are you a professional in a suit and tie? Are you business casual? Or are you casual?
Your networking begins the moment you look in the closet to choose what you wear, so choose wisely.
# 2 Get Something to Eat Before You Meet
Don’t make the rookie mistake of relying on networking events to provide food. Sure, it may be advertised on the event’s program, but you should not rely on it. Often, there are long lines for food which takes away from valuable time you could have for connecting with people you’ve never met. Also, it’s awkward to meet people and shake their hand when you have a drink in one hand and a plate of food in the other.
Having a conversation with food in your mouth is not the best tactic either. I always make sure that I go to networking events with a full tummy. This allows me to maximize the time at the event and interact with more people.
It is important to note that you are what you eat, and if you’re full of pizza and soda, you will not be performing at your best. Make sure that the meal you eat prior to the event is one that’s balanced and healthy. Drinking plenty of water beforehand is also vital to ensure that you’re hydrated and prepared for your top networking game.
# 3 Listen More and Actually Listen
One of the best tactics in a networking situation is active listening. The fact is people like to talk. There are studies that show a correlation between the amount of time that someone talks and how connected they feel with a conversation. Therefore, if you want to build quicker relationships with people you’ve just met, get them to talk more.
How do you get them to talk more?
Don’t fake listen.
Pay attention and understand what they’re saying.
This helps you ask better questions based on the information they’re providing. When you listen to people, they are more engaged in the conversation and you are more likely to be remembered after the networking dust has settled. Learn to listen, and listen to learn!
# 4 Bring Energy to Your Words Through Smiling
Did you know that your face makes over 4,000 micro movements that other people can pick up on subconsciously? These tiny alterations in your facial expressions communicate volumes to people whether you realize it or not.
We are trained by evolution to constantly evaluate our situation to make sure we are in a safe environment and not in danger of being chased by something like a bear. So don’t be a bear! The best way to let people know you are not a threat is simple— smile.
People who smile are approachable, people who don’t are not.
We’ve all been in networking situations where we instinctively scan the room. Your subconscious picks up signals from faces in the crowd. You are more likely to connect with those who look like they’re in a good mood, and those who are in a good mood are typically smiling.
When at your event, remember to smile when you catch someone’s eye. Smile in the middle of a conversation with someone when they make a point that you’re interested in. Smile just to smile and you will find others smiling back at you. This low tech tip is one of the most powerful that you can use and it extends well beyond networking. Try to smile more in your regular day-to-day interactions and you will open up opportunities that you would have never seen coming otherwise.
#5 Know How to Communicate the Problem You Solve
When I work with leaders from around the world on creating more buy-in for their products and services, I teach them one simple thing: Start with the problem you solve.
This may be hard to hear, but the truth is that people don’t care what you do.
They only care about the problem you solve, and they really care about that problem if it’s one that they have.
When someone asks you what you do, try to phrase your answer in a way that communicates the problem you solve, without telling them what you do. You’ll notice that people who are interested in the problem will ask you for more information. This slight change in the order of information delivered works volumes.
When someone asks me what I do, I tell them that it’s not what I do that’s important, but it’s the problem I solve that matters. To which they ask, “What’s the problem?” followed by me answering with the problem I solve. This approach leads to a natural conversation about what I do to solve that problem.
That leads to conversions.
If you can’t communicate the problem that you’re solving without explaining what you do, you’re missing an opportunity to engage someone in a networking event. Create intrigue.
#6 Know Exactly What You Need Help With
If I asked you what specifically you need help with right now, could you answer that question?
Think about it right now.
What is the one thing that you need the most help with? Is your answer specific? Is it tangible? Is it something that’s easy for people to understand? Is it something that people can help you achieve now? If you don’t know what you need help with, you won’t get the help you need. When you’re meeting people at a networking event, you have a short amount of time to communicate the problem you solve and the value that you provide.
If someone is interested in what you do, there’s a good chance that they are willing to support you. But if you can’t communicate how they can support you, the opportunity will be lost.
# 7 Stop Using Filler Words
Are you aware of what you say while you’re thinking?
There’s an extremely high chance that while you’re thinking—in conversations or before you start talking—you use filler words to bridge the gap, words like um, so, but, like, you know, etc.
Most people use filler words but have no idea they’re doing it. But don’t worry, there’s a fix for this problem. Just ask for help from your friends. Ask your friends to identify the filler words that you use and give them permission to correct you or bring it to your attention when you use them. When you start noticing the number of filler words you use, it’s very easy to reduce their frequency.
There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of silence in between your thoughts and what you say. In fact, it gives the person who you’re talking with a chance to actually think through pieces of the conversation.
#8 Look for People’s Strengths
When someone gives you a business card, do you stick it in your pocket and immediately give them yours? In some cultures, it is customary to spend time looking over and reading a card when it is handed to you. Taking this simple step and investing 10 seconds to evaluate someone’s card after they’ve handed to you is a form of respect and will help you identify their strengths.
Remember that someone’s card is not just their information, it’s a statement about their brand, their personality and what they are good at.
If you take a card and put it in your pocket right away, you’re ignoring the time and effort that someone took to put their card together. Try my 10-second rule when someone gives you their business card.
Stop, read the card, and evaluate both sides of the card for at least 10 seconds.
In doing so, it actually gives you a good chance to learn a lot more about the person and their position. What social media web handles do they have? What’s on the back of the card, and why do you think they designed it the way they did? What do the colors say about the person?
Spending at least 10 seconds on every card you receive will up your connection rate and will give you more ammunition to continue a valuable conversation.
# 9 Be Memorable
When you’re networking at an event and meeting dozens of people, it’s hard to remember everyone you met. More importantly, you have to realize that many people won’t remember who you are. But there are some people you meet that you want to make sure to remember, or vice versa, you want to make sure that they remember you.
One pro tip I use is creating an anchor memory in their brain. I do this through a simple set of steps. If I identify someone that I’d love to add to my network and build a relationship with, before parting ways, I will ask them to come up with a code word.
People typically are confused and ask what I mean, so I ask them to come up with a word that makes them remember our interaction or conversation. I share with them that it can be anything that comes to the top of their mind at that moment. It could be something we talked about or about the event where we’re at, but it is important to have them come up with the code word and not yourself.
When they come up with a word, I tell them that when I send my follow up email, the subject line will be “code word” and then whatever the word is.
In that moment, you just created a mental anchor in their brain.
When I send a follow-up email with that subject line, that person will remember me and the interaction we had. This is a secret way to stand out in the follow-up game when many people will be emailing each other, but most will not be remembered.
# 10 Leverage Mirror Neurons to Make Faster Connections
Humans have what are called mirror neurons. Discovered in the early 1990’s, mirror neurons are an evolutionary tool to help individuals identify safe zones. Your mirror neurons work on autopilot, helping you adjust to your surroundings. But when you are aware of mirror neurons you can use them to your advantage while networking.
From an evolutionary standpoint, people feel more comfortable around people who are similar and act in a similar way to themselves. People who like talking quickly are comfortable with others who do the same. This is also true for people who speak slowly. You can create an immediate connection with people by mirroring their body positioning, their mannerisms, and the speed at which they talk. If they use particular hand gestures, incorporate those hand gestures into your communication.
Doing so will create a sense of security and comfort with the person that you’re talking with.
Mirroring the body language of others will quickly break down not only biases but perceived differences. This is a Jedi mind-trick that works wonders. You can build relationships faster with more people by slowly taking on their body language and translating it into how you are communicating.
In fact, if you observe two people talking with each other for an extended period of time, you’ll notice that they naturally start standing the same way or sitting in similar positions. It’s the body’s way of communicating that they are comfortable with each other. So use this mirroring tactic to build relationships faster with people you’ve never met.
So there you have it, some of the top preforming tips from all of my networking experiences!
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Ryan Foland is a master communicator. He coaches leaders worldwide on the art of simplifying spoken and written messaging for greater impact. He is the inventor of 3-1-3 Theory, a process whereby pitches begin as three sentences, condense into one sentence and then boil down to three words. Ryan is the co-founder of InfluenceTree.com, a personal brand accelerator and writes for Influencive. He has appeared in Inc., Entrepreneur, HuffPost, TEDx and more. An entertaining speaker and emcee, he serves as a public speaking mentor for a variety of thought leaders. Learn more at www.RyanFoland.com.