Having the right professional contacts can help you expand your business and open the door to new opportunities. One of the best ways to meet those contacts is by attending networking events. Whether you’re at an industry-specific conference or a general entrepreneur meetup, you’re sure to connect with people who can help you grow.
The trick to success is properly introducing yourself. You want to let the other person know what you and your business are all about, without coming across as self-promotional.
Follow this advice from 10 members of Forbes Communications Council if you want to make a great first impression at your next networking event.
1. Build genuine personal connections.
Networking events are a bit like being set up on a blind date, and similar rules apply. Don’t take over the conversation and talk about yourself and your business. People want to feel that you are genuinely interested in them. Ask questions to get to know the other person and understand what they do. As you build a personal connection, potential business opportunities often present themselves. – Hannah Taylor, Ironistic
Not only does smiling make it easier for people to connect with you because you are more open and welcoming, it also helps them remember you — and your company. Show real interest in what the other person does and ask questions before talking about you. Your smile and authentic self will go a long way toward a positive first impression. – Melani Deyto, TextMarks
3. Listen when you join a conversation, then show you were listening.
Take a few minutes to listen to the conversation when joining a group of people. An effective way to make a good first impression is to join a conversation with a comment that shows you were listening to the current group of people. Acknowledge a key point to add to the conversation rather than refocusing on you and your work. Nothing will stop a conversation faster. – Kiersten Williams, Walk West
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4. Be yourself and don’t try to sell.
I’ve found that the best approach for any networking event is to be myself and talk about my business in a casual, non-salesy way. When I discuss my business, I always try to share, not sell. I also do a bit of homework on which connections make sense for me to connect with so I am focusing my energy chatting with people who are relevant to my career and industry. – Lin Grosman, GoDataFeed.com
5. Research attendees and come prepared with questions.
The best impressions are the ones that appear effortless. Approaching others too aggressively and not paying proper attention to the people and conversations around you can have a negative effect. Be prepared with questions that help you learn about others, hold mutually interesting conversations and make it easy to share what you want to about yourself or your business when it’s appropriate. – Kriselle Laran, Zeno Group
6. Bring a friend.
If you are able to attend an event with someone you know from another company, it is great to meet people together — that way you can talk each other up. It can be so hard to boast about yourself and your firm’s accomplishments, but your friend from another company can do that for you and vice versa. – Sherry Jhawar, Blended Strategy Group
7. Be curious.
People love to talk about themselves. The key to making a great first impression is to be curious about the other person. Asking a thoughtful question (having done your homework on the attendees first) is a great way to put others at ease and demonstrate your listening skills. The more interested you are in others, the more interesting you become. – Tracey Grove, Microsoft
8. Introduce yourself with an anecdote that resonates.
We all have that one line or story about what we love about what we do and what our company does. Make your intro spiel personal. People will see you are genuine and it will resonate. – Kat Krieger, Joyride Coffee Distributors
9. Learn how you can help each new connection.
Networking is a powerful way to build business connections, but it’s important that your objective in meeting new people isn’t self-serving. Be authentic, ask questions and start every conversation hoping to learn, “How can I help?” Something as simple as offering to make a helpful introduction goes a long way in leaving a positive impression and will often lead to long-term relationships. – Robyn Hannah, Dynamic Signal
10. Go in without a strict agenda and try to make a new friend.
Networking events can be intimidating, awkward and loaded with pressure. If you go into it with the intention of getting new leads or gathering X amount of business cards, it’s likely to become uncomfortable. I was recently given the best networking advice: Be authentic and simply try to make a new friend. This takes the pressure off, allows you to be yourself and leads to stronger connections. – Tanya Carlsson, Off-leash