Posted on 11th july 2018 by Maddy Abela
1) Have the 'me' talk
Talking to random strangers can be nerve-wracking. I completely get that. So, sometimes before you go to the event it can be useful to sit yourself down with a cup of tea and a custard cream (or whichever biscuit you choose) and reflect on why you're so nervous about networking? Are you worried you'll embarrass yourself? Or maybe you're super anxious that no one will find you interesting? Explore those thoughts a little. And if you ever need to talk, ERIC are here to put you at ease.
2) Perfect your introduction
Hello! Hey! Hiya! Bonjour! (Okay, maybe not bonjour). There are so many different and fun ways to introduce yourself so just experiment and see what you feel most comfortable with. Practising your introduction in front of a good ol' mirror can help too.
3) Ask questions
A good icebreaker, if you don't like to just approach someone and be like hi it's me, is to ask a question. It doesn't have to be super premeditated, it could be as simple as asking if the seat next to someone is free. Sometimes, breaking the initial silence can be enough to kick start a great conversation.
4) Be polite
Never forget your manners when you're out and about networking. Manners aren't just your usual 'thank yous' and 'pleases'; they can be a great way for getting someone's attention –similar to the whole asking questions business. If someone's on their phone or seems in la la land and you want to talk to them, a short, but equally friendly and polite, 'excuse me' can also help break the ice.
5) Compliment them
Everyone loves a cheeky compliment! Now this doesn't mean walking past everyone you see and going 'hey good looking'. No, no, no! All it means is that if that lady at the event, who is super cool and just gave an amazing talk on apprenticeships, is wearing a funky scarf- let her know. This is another alternative to your traditional introduction of 'hi, my name is blah blah...'
When you do get talking to people, the worst thing you can do is visibly lose interest. Soldier through the conversation, because the last thing you want is to seem rude. Obviously, if something is happening- like you need a wee- then politely tell the person and make your exit. But if someone starts talking about something that isn't really interesting try and focus and engage.
7) Make offers
Most people are used to people asking things of them especially if they're important. So, try and turn the tables a little. You've just met a songwriter and you're interested in graphic design? Awesome- that's a great match by the way. Offer to help them design their EP cover. But be careful, this will only work if you are actually LISTENING. Don't randomly offer irrelevant things for the sake of it.
I refuse to believe that there is anyone who doesn't look good when they smile. Smiles are beautiful! It's easy when engrossed in a conversation to resume your resting bitch face, so remember to smile. Say cheese!
9) Body language
Similar to smiling, body language speaks volumes. 55% of communication is made up of body language. 55%, that's over half! So, sit up straight, don't cross your arms and show them what you're made of.
10) It's not about you
My final sprinkling of wisdom is a huge mistake I'm guilty of making all the damn time. Someone tells you about their new project and it makes you think of your project so you interrupt them to talk about you, you, you. Well, as much as networking being a personal experience that you hope to gain from, don't forget that you're there to get to know other people. You already know yourself, silly, so make sure you're learning about them.
Written by Maddy Abela