Networking is a key ingredient of your professional success whether you are looking to build your brand, find new clients or be recognized as a leader in your industry. Here are 22 ways to boost your networking skills in 2022:
1. If you won’t be able to muster up positive energy and enthusiasm, don’t attend the networking event.
2. Focus on the why – be clear about why you are going to this event or meeting this person.
3. Have a clear message. What will you share about yourself at this event or in this networking conversation?
4. Practice that message out loud so you can introduce yourself with confidence.
5. Prepare a few open-ended questions that you can ask that will spark conversation. One of my favorites: after someone tells you the kind of work they do, ask, “how did you get interested in that kind of work?”
6. When in conversation, practice active listening. Smile, nod, ask related follow-up questions, etc.
7. Prepare for the “elephant in the room” – how will you discuss COVID? (A good question here could be “what has your experience been like during COVID?”)
8. Demonstrate empathy. Not everyone’s experience has been the same during COVID. Try to understand what others have experienced, even if you don’t agree with their perspective.
9. Block time on your calendar for soon after the event so you can connect with people that you’d like to follow up with.
For virtual networking
10. Keep your camera on. It’s difficult to connect with people if they can’t see you.
11. Come early and stay late. This gives you an opportunity for an informal chat with a few people outside the formal event.
12. Position your camera at eye level so it’s easier for you to make eye contact with other people.
13. Make eye contact with other people by looking at the camera more rather than looking at the videos of other attendees on your screen.
14. If your software allows it, move the videos of other people to right below your camera on your screen so you can easily switch between the camera (you making eye contact) and their faces (you looking at their reactions).
15. Set up good lighting from behind the camera so your face can be seen.
16. If you have to sit in front of a window, close the blinds, shades or curtains to block the light so you are not backlit.
17. Wear glasses? Angles the lights so they are not directly pointing at your glasses and causing glare.
For in-person networking:
18. Decide how you will greet people (handshake, fist bump, elbow tap).
19. Realize that you may be a bit rusty at in-person networking – but so will other people.
20. Act like the host (idea from Susan RoAne) and make others feel comfortable.
21. Be kind. If you’re standing in a group and you see someone hovering at the edge, make room in the circle for them and acknowledge them with a smile.
22. To bring a conversation to a close, thank the person, acknowledge that the goal of the networking event is to mingle and go and do that.
23. Smile – it’s a great way to demonstrate warmth and engage your audience.
24. You don’t have to be perfect or the life of the party. Just be the best version of yourself that you can be in that moment.
(C) Gilda Bonanno LLC www.gildabonanno.com