The following is a guest post by Jessie Spielvogel, a location-independent social media guru with a love for small business. Jessie and I are both members of an awesome online community for women in business called Project Eve. She let me guest blog for her and I couldn’t resist asking her to blog for me! She’s got such a great voice in her writing. Enjoy!
“Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out?” – Ian Wallace
So you’ve decided to give yourself the chance to work a room, huh? I applaud you! One of the hardest parts about breaking out of your shell when it comes to marketing yourself is actually finding the courage to ATTEND a networking event! So pat yourself on the back, because that was half the battle 😉
Not sure what your plan is, but you know that you don’t want to be the awkward guy/gal standing in the corner talking with yourself? Well, relax, friend! Below I’ve laid out 7 tricks to help you come off as confident, approachable, and prepared! Take a look.
- Look HOT! One of Liz’s tricks for rocking a public speaking gig was to look hot. It works the same for a networking event. You want to look good! Wear something you’re comfortable in, you feel good about when you look in the mirror, and that is appropriate attire for the type of event. If you’re meeting for a happy hour event during a weekday, it’s probably going to be business casual since everyone is coming straight from work. If you’re going to a weekend social event, it’s very possible that it’s even more casual! Check out the events page (there usually is one), and find out what the appropriate attire is. If it doesn’t say, then aim for a classic business casual look!
- Remember names – yes, you’re going to be talking to a lot of people and it will feel impossible to remember who everyone is. Try this old trick: during your brief conversations, look them in the eyes, say their name three times throughout your chat (once in the intro, once in the middle, once when parting ways). This will help keep their name in mind so that you won’t forget it five minutes later!
- Always have business cards on hand!Since you’ll have so many names floating around in your brain at this event, don’t be just another name forgotten by the people who didn’t take the time to do the name-remembering trick. Bring a business card. Hand it out. Make sure that it has got your name, company, title, phone number, email address, and website. Don’t let them forget you! You’re worth remembering!
- Prepare your “elevator speech” – Have you ever been in an elevator with someone and you have to make small talk in a short amount of time? Yeah. I hate that. It’s awkward, but some people just can’t be silent for the short ride! Well, that’s the amount of time it should take to sum up who you are in a nutshell (or in this case… in an elevator)! Make sure that you’ve got a solid elevator speech for those quick conversations at the networking event. Here is mine as an example: “My name is Jessie Spielvogel…. I started a company called Split Aces Media and I specialize in digital marketing for small businesses. Basically, I help small companies be awesome online!” What’s your elevator speech?
- Practice your handshake ahead of time. It’s only going to feel slightly weird when you ask your friend or family member to analyze your handshake, but seriously – this is important. Ask someone to shake your hand! You need to practice. Nothing is more of a turn off than a limp handshake. It should be firm, confident, and impressive. When someone shakes your hand, you want them to know that you’re awesome (because you ARE)! Practice makes perfect, so go get judged by your friends when you ask them to critique you, and be proud of your solid handshake!
- SMILE! Nothing says, “Hi! Come get to know me because I’m friendly and confident!” like a shining smile. Even if you’re not actively talking to someone at the time, act like you want to be there, and make sure that you look excited and happy to be there. Positive people attract other positive people. So start attracting!
- Don’t linger! When you start talking to someone, it’s important not to latch on to one single person. After all, you’re at a networking event, and you may only have one hour to form relationships with as many people as possible without coming across as a sleazy schmoozer. Go with a seven-minute rule. I just made this rule up. Talk with a person or a group of people for no more than seven minutes. If you’d like to continue talking with them in more detail, that’s what those business cards are for. Offer to take them out for coffee to continue the chat in more detail! End on a note that says, “I’m not done with you yet… let’s get together again to keep this conversation going!”
Remember, if you don’t feel confident, you won’t look confident. Practice makes perfect. You may feel awkward at your first event. That’s totally normal! I felt completely out of place at my first event in DC. But, the more events I attended, the better I felt, and the easier it became. Keep these tips in mind to be the star of your next networking event, and you’ll shine!
PS! Don’t forget to share your elevator speech in the comments section. It’s good practice 😉
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