Meeting new people, be it for social or business purposes, can be difficult when you’re out of your comfort zone and about to walk into a room full of people you’ve never met before. As a followup to my post from the other day, What NOT to Do When Networking & Meeting People, here is the one thing to always remember when introducing yourself and starting conversations with new people wherever you are. It’s the golden rule of networking. Be genuine. And while being genuine can be difficult in new environments, trying to be someone you’re not will mark you out as a fake and leave you lonely in a corner.
Here are a few tips that help me when I’m about to walk into a room full of strangers.
Take a deep breath
Before you walk into the room, take a deep breath and don’t rush to the first person you see. Scan the room for familiar faces. If there are any, you have a starting point. However, the flip side is that they’ll be the first to spot if you are being disingenuous in your actions or words.
It may sound obvious, but when you are nervous you either forget to smile or walk round with a fixed inane grin. Neither of these are approachable or very genuine. Remember that the purpose of any social gathering is to get to know people better and to encourage them to want to get to know you.
Standing in a corner and hoping that people will come to you will do you no good. If you don’t instigate conversation, particularly about other people, you could come across as self-serving and repel people from wanting to know about you or from engaging with your ideas. When you do approach someone, remember to be interesting. They don’t want to know about your childhood illnesses, your strange diet or your relationship troubles. Keep the conversation flowing and relevant, but don’t turn into a salesperson either.
Just as important as being interesting is being interested. When you begin a conversation, make sure you give people time to respond and actively listen to what they have to say. Listening is about more than just hearing and waiting for your chance to speak again. If you listen, you can pick up on relevant keywords, phrases and voice tones that will help you get to know the other person better. You can then adjust your conversation to meet their particular needs or direct them to someone else, who you realized through your previous conversations is someone they should get to know.
Interrupting a conversation, particularly if you were not originally a part of it is the height of rudeness. In an open group situation, listening to another conversation, and even joining in if there is a pause that allows it, is not socially unacceptable. However, butting in or talking over another person is and will not make you many friends or contacts.
Know when to leave
Some conversations come to a natural end while others seem to go on and on. And even if you can’t wait to get away, always end a conversation politely. Simply saying “It’s been great talking to you, but I best go and meet a few more people before the evening is over.” is the perfect out. You also can’t be the one who tries to hog the most popular person in the room. Realize that there are others waiting to speak to them and other people who may want to speak to you too.
And whatever else you do….
Don’t drink too much. Having a drink in any social or business situation is friendly and can help to calm the nerves. Having too much could lead to people seeing sides of you that should never, ever be seen, let alone in a semi-professional environment.
As you can see, being honest and genuine in a networking situation is about much more than being yourself. However, it starts with you being yourself, and none of the above will matter if you try to be someone or something you are not.
For more information about networking, leadership, or sales & marketing, please connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter.
This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: The Golden Rule of Networking & Meeting People
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