Here’s a little secret I’ve learned through networking over the years: It’s not what you say, it’s how you behave.
As marketers, we often talk about branding. That could mean a company’s image or an individual’s personal brand.
When I think of my personal brand, I consider the impression I create when I’m trying to make connections. I try to be gracious because I’ve always valued good manners, and I believe graciousness comes from being engaged and being interested.
But it’s not always easy to engage.
Some days, I’m super excited about the event. On others, I’d rather go home and not talk at all. But you know what? I go anyway, because I promised myself I would attend one or more networking events every week.
So how can I be gracious when I may not feel like talking? I use the principle of engagement to get me started.
I’ll position myself to be a part of a conversation or group, and then I find something interesting about the person or group. If I hear something that piques my interest, that I can relate to, I’ll Iatch on. And that takes me to the next point and so on. I’ll soon find myself immersed in conversation and enjoying myself. It’s the starting that matters, the rest seems to flow out of that.
This is not me putting on an act. Au contraire! In fact, I often find that I forget about myself when I start talking to other people. I’ll learn about them and share a little about me, and invariably, my mood changes for the better. It what the neuro-scientists have discovered. Our brains light up when we’re trying and learning new things–even when it feels uncomfortable at first.
In my reading, I’ve seen that I’m not alone in my approach to networking by being thoughtful with how I conduct myself. Here are a few other gracious networking tips I found across the Web to consider at your next event:
“Your actions are a direct reflection of who you are,” Wheatman wrote. “They are your brand. Good manners establish a positive impression in the minds of others. Perception IS reality. Poor etiquette can and will reflect negatively upon your image.
To paraphrase a quote, people will remember not what you said, but how you made them feel. Good manners are a clear way of making others feel that they matter.
2. Muster your mustard. We’ve all had networking fatigue. Sometimes you just want to hang out at home. But as networking guru Gail Tolstoi-Miller told Glassdoor, it doesn’t matter if it’s your umpteenth networking event that week, you still need to carry yourself with poise and enthusiasm.
“Leave your problems at home,” she said. You’ll have a chance to make a memorable first impression, and you don’t know where it will lead. Use it wisely.
3. Show what you can do, but don’t press. When you’re at a networking event, it’s perfectly reasonable to tell people what services your company offers and how that may help them. But there’s certain tact you must take at any event. Yo don’t want to sound like someone who is more interested in cashing in on a sale than creating connections. You show people how you feel about them by how you treat them. Think about how you’d like to be treated.
“If you tell me that you’re an investment banker, a financial planner, or even a mechanic, I know what you do,” Richie Frieman, the Modern Manners Guy, wrote in a blog post. “And if I am looking for that, you will probably get my business if you are just a normal person and not trying to force your brochure down my throat.”