Building career connections through strategic networking is a great way to learn more about your industry and discover new ideas to help you excel in your career. However, networking events can be intimidating, especially if it’s your first time attending and you don’t know what to expect.
In order to make a positive impression and be remembered by your potential new connections, keep these tips in mind.
Start with a confident introduction
Starting off on the right foot when networking is important, and there’s no better way to make a solid first impression than a confident introduction.
A confident introduction is all about projecting confidence in your body language and behavior. You should keep an open and positive facial expression and greet them with a firm handshake. Be conscious of how you’re standing, as your posture can reflect nervousness or make you seem standoffish. Power poses are linked to less stress, improved performance, and help to command attention.
Practice your introduction with a friend or family member before you network and get their feedback. The more you practice, the more you can improve - and it’s better to shake off any awkward nerves with a trusted friend prior to the event than potentially embarrass yourself when meeting someone new.
Dress (and groom) to impress
Your appearance is important in making a good impression with a new connection. Depending on the industry, going with a business-casual look is a safe bet. However, never assume a set dress code. You should always confirm ahead of time what the expected attire is for the event and adjust your outfit choice accordingly.
It’s a good idea to keep a range of options in your wardrobe that fit with a variety of situations - whether it be business formal, business casual, or otherwise. If you have any “lucky” accessories like a watch, necklace, or a class ring, don’t be afraid to wear them. They can be a good conversation piece, or in general provide you with a boost of placebo-fueled confidence.
It’s also important to take care of your physical appearance before a professional event. Cleaning up your look by getting a haircut, trimming any facial hair, and possibly whitening your teeth are all great steps in looking your best.
Furthermore, don’t forget to pay attention to the smaller details of your appearance or any insecurities you may have. If you’re experiencing hair loss, considering a topical solution such as minoxidil to stimulate hair growth may be a good move. Or, if you have a distracting blemish, utilizing a concealer can help to cover-up. Addressing these insecurities can help to keep your focus on putting your best foot forward when meeting a new person, versus being too self-conscious to put yourself out there.
Show genuine interest
Giving someone your undivided attention and actively listening to them makes them feel important and can foster a genuine connection. Stay present in the conversation without thinking of who you want to speak to next, checking your phone, or only speaking about yourself.
People can feel when you’re not really listening or interested in what they’re saying, which leaves a bad impression on the encounter and they’ll likely disengage with what you have to say in return. Demonstrate you’re actively listening by asking insightful follow-up questions, keeping eye contact with them, and reacting appropriately throughout the flow of the conversation.
Make yourself relatable
A great way to be remembered by a new connection is to find interests you may have in common beyond the industry you’re both in. This helps make you more relatable and likable, which works to make your potential connection feel more relaxed and at ease with you rather than stuffy professional courtesies.
There’s plenty to find common ground on - whether it’s a favorite sports team, television show, a recent movie you’ve watched, or even pictures of your kids (or pets). However, it’s essential to let the flow of the conversation lead to more personal talk, as otherwise you may be perceived as being off-topic, or at worst, inappropriate for the event.
Check-in following the event
Even the best conversations can be forgotten if there’s no follow-up. You should always make an effort to check-in with a new connection a few days after the event, whether it’s via email, a message on LinkedIn, or a phone call (depending on how good the conversation was). Following up helps to cement the previous conversation you had and encourages further communication going forward.