When starting a company, networking is incredibly important. While this can be difficult for shyer types, more extroverted personalities seem to have an innate ability to make friends and contacts. However, even extroverts can use a bit of finesse to make the most out of their natural talents.
As a CEO, the importance of making a great first impression can’t be overstated. Sometimes, bigger personalities can come off as abrasive, trying too hard, or even nervous. You want to come off as smooth, confident and in control. Here are a few tips to sharpen your networking skills.
- Listen more. There are times when an extrovert can just run away with a conversation, having a tendency to hoard the dialogue. By listening more, you will give space and attention to the other person, showing that you are interested. The conversation is supposed to be like a ping pong match: back and forth. Reiterating what the other person stated and then making a comment shows that you are really paying attention and value their input.
- Select your topics carefully. You might have a tendency to think aloud. But when chatting with strangers, it’s important to figure out their interests early and steer the conversation in that direction. One way to do this is to ask broad questions and encourage whomever you’re talking to. Think through a topic before vocalizing your thoughts.
- Open up honestly. There will be times when you will strike out in a conversation. To reduce this, trust your intuition to find a friendly face in the crowd. Once you’ve done that, let them know by saying, ‘”You seem friendly.” You’ll be surprised how often this works. Other positive lines like, “What a nice party!” work too. Walking up to a group and honestly asking, “Can I join you?” can be charming if done with a smile.
- Adopt positive postures. As an extrovert, you might have the gift of small talk but need body language to support you. Being assertive is a strength, but at times can come across to others intimidating or hostile. Positivity, in thoughts and appearance, will make its presence felt. Try to refrain from putting your hands in your pocket or crossing your arms. Keeping an upright posture with your shoulders back and your head up shows confidence. Invest in yourself and others are likely to do the same. Come dressed for the occasion wearing clean and ironed clothes. There are lots of distractions (your phone, other conversations, bright lights, etc.), but keeping eye contact is of the utmost importance when showing that you are present in body and mind.
- Count your drinks. Be frugal with your alcohol levels. A drink or two is fine, but with more your jokes may not actually be as funny as you think and you might become unaware that you are repeating yourself. To avoid this, it is respectable to leave early once you have made your impact.
Once you nail these strategies, you’ll become the networking powerhouse you were meant to be.
Jessica M. Baker is the Founder and CEO of Aligned Signs, the only patented self-discovery and relationship tool of its kind. Ms. Baker fuels her business ventures with expertise gained from nine years of experience in finance, business analysis, client management and research. Jessica graduated summa cum laude with a Master of Business Administration in Finance and a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Texas.
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