We all want to make a good impression when meeting new people, whether that’s starting a new school, a new job, meeting the in-laws for the first time, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make that first impression perfect and networking events are exactly the same.
‘You only get to make a first impression once’ is very true, but it doesn’t mean you have to be the ‘perfect’ person every time you meet someone – no one is perfect! At a networking event all you can do is try your best and be mindful of the following 5 things…
1. Turn up!
Showing up is always going to be the first step – just by being there you’re delivering on a commitment to yourself and the event host. There’s 100’s of excuses not to go; the weather’s rubbish, I’m tired, I’ve got other things I should be doing, blah blah blah. If you look for an excuse you’ll find one. If you’ve ever hosted an event you’ll know how scary it can be, so if you’ve said you’ll attend, attend! It really can mean a lot to people and you never know where it might lead.
2. Be polite
Super simple but often forgotten – basic manner really do go a long way in making a great impression. This doesn’t just mean being polite to other delegates, oh no, this includes everybody! Staff at the venue, the host(s), people you bump into in the hallways or at the bar. Every time we have an interaction with another human we’re leaving them with an impression of who we are as a person. Make sure it’s a good one by holding the door open, not pushing in line, saying thank you and please! Super simple but super impactful.
3. Be present
When you’re at a networking event, make sure you’re at the networking event. Put away the phone and forget about the emails (they’ll still be there in an hour) to focus on the people you’re connecting with. A great time is to schedule in an hour of admin *before or after a networking event to allow you to get all those little jobs off your mental to-do list. It’ll help you be more present at the event, something the people you’re talking to will pick up on. *extra tip, if you’re more of an introvert schedule some quite time (admin works well) after an event to allow you to recharge those batteries.
People want to feel heard, so developing your listening skills can not only make a great impression it will also allow you to learn something new! One of the most valuable things you’ll get from networking is access to knowledge, so asking insightful questions and really listening to the people you’re networking with leaves them thinking you’re great and you with loads of new knowledge and ideas.
Here’s a little experiment to showcase the power of listening – next time you go for dinner with a friend, partner, family member or whoever, when you first sit down instead of doing the usual putting your phone on the table, take it out and turn it off. Turn it off and tell them you’re turning it off because you don’t want to be interrupted, you want to talk to them and really listen. Watch their reaction and see how the conversation changes!
5. Be yourself
We often feel like we need to put on a show at networking events, maybe because we think networking is just for extroverted, confident people in suits! It’s not, trust me. Networking’s for anyone and everyone and that includes you. When we try to be something we’re not it comes across as fake which means it’s hard for people to trust us – they can tell something’s off but they can’t quite put their finger on it. Give yourself permission to be yourself and the connections you make will be authentic. People want to get to know you, just give them the opportunity and you’ll make the best first impression possible!*
*unless you’re a tool. Then refer back to tip 2.
For more networking tips and tricks pop over to our Networking Knowledge section! It’s packed with free resources to help you network smarter.