5 Simple, Yet Powerful Networking Tips to Meet Anyone at Any Time
Networking can be a pain point for many people — and rightfully so. That’s why I want to share five networking tips that will help you approach ANYONE.
Whether it’s at an event, via DM, or in a Zoom breakout room, it can be intimidating to approach people. Conversations can be one-sided, and it’s easy to fall into a pattern of thinking that people are only there to use you as a stepping stone for their own growth while not considering yours.
But here’s something important to remember: at its core, networking is really just about meeting people and connecting. It’s just the grown-up version of kids meeting at the schoolyard. So how can you return to that space of innocence, before preconceived notions dominated your thoughts and you were just trying to play with all your potential friends?
Hint: it all starts with shifting your mindset to a space of curiosity. Here are five networking tips that will help you ditch the “what’s in it for me?” attitude:
Networking Tip #1: Humanize the Crowd
Attending any event can feel intimidating. It’s almost like you’re back in high school wondering if the “cool kids” are snickering behind your back about your style or status. These feelings are further compounded if the event is occupied by people who you feel are wealthier or more educated than you.
You’re not the only one. That discomfort is universal. Most other people are facing the same insecurities and feelings of self-consciousness that you are. Just know that feeling out of your comfort zone is a natural place to be. We’ve all been there and even benefited from healthy levels of introspection.
Another way of thinking about it is that people are not their titles, prestige, net worth, or good looks. These are things they have, not things they are. Instead, try to see everybody as their own unique individual who has had their own fair share of ups and downs, including downright failures and heartbreaks.
Humanize the crowd. Instead of seeing a mob, see individuals. Feel the unique face inside the crowd, one person at a time.
Networking Tip #2: Pick a Color
Once, I was invited to attend an anniversary party for one of the most famous and expensive restaurants in NYC. It was scheduled during a difficult week for me. One where I was feeling discouraged and insecure. It was the ultimate networking event, but I wasn’t feeling up to par.
Two hours before the party, I told my friend how I was unable to rally my confidence, and how I felt paralyzed imagining myself mixing with the rich and famous.
She said something unusual: “Choose two colors.”
I thought, “What the heck does that have to do with anything?” but she insisted.
So I chose navy blue and beige.
“Introduce yourself to everyone wearing those two colors.” She explained. “When you choose two colors before an event, then you have a valid reason to approach strangers – including some that you might have thought were “out of your league.”
And so I did. Filtering by my chosen colors, I introduced myself to a slew of people I never would have approached, all with the same opening line: “Hi, I’m Kim and I had to introduce myself to you.”
You know what? It turned out to be an instant rapport builder. Each and every one of them LOVED learning about this technique. It made us both be authentic right from the get-go. We were able to engage instantly with one another in an authentic way, as we bonded over how challenging these events can be and how hard it is to really connect to people in a way that is real and not forced.
Networking Tip #3: Make It About Them
It feels great when someone takes a genuine interest in you. Use this to your advantage and make it about the person you’re talking to!
Don’t make the mistake of talking about what you do too early. Even if the person asks you what it is you do, turn the question around to learn more about them first and foremost. Not only can this help put them in a positive mindset, but it can give you more information. By learning about the person in question, you can suss out the talking points they’ll want to hear about.
When you take the time to learn more about them and their needs, they will feel listened-to and understood, which is rare in networking. You will learn more about them and their particular needs. This is instrumental in crafting your pitch more effectively, and finding the right opportunity to align with their needs.
Networking Tip #4: Keep Moving
When it comes to networking events, try to act like a bee trying to get pollen from as many flowers as possible in the shortest amount of time.
Don’t just spend the whole time conversing with one person. Once you have truly listened, discovered what someone does, and what they’re looking for, it’s time to move on.
Don’t be afraid to share with them the fact that you both should be out there meeting other people, especially if you are feeling comfortable after you both have been talking for a while.
Does this mean you can’t have longer, more meaningful conversations? Absolutely not. Save that long leisurely conversation for another time — invite them for drinks or breakfast and tell them that you would love for the conversation to continue.
Networking Tip #5: Bring in the Professionals!
We all have our strengths and weaknesses. There are some people who are just a natural at this sort of thing. But even if you’re not, you can get better. Think of it like making a muscle stronger — really, all it takes is intention and lots of reps.
You can start by simply observing. If you know someone who excels at networking, ask them if you can follow them around a cocktail party or business event, and watch how they do what they do.
Alternatively, consider learning from a professional — either through a course or through books.
One shining example of incredible relationship-building skills is Keith Ferrazzi, the author of the bestseller “Never Eat Alone.” Keith has been called the worlds’ most “connected” individual by Forbes. He had a program called Relationship Masters Academy — I was his co-host of the NYC Chapter. It was an innovative web based course that helped professionals learn how to transform their relationships and networking abilities to increase their professional success.
Additionally, there is Toastmasters, a non-profit organization that has been assisting people in public speaking and leadership skills, all done in a non-threatening environment. They’ve been around since 1924, and they are a national organization.
Ready to Get Social?
Remember, you are not alone. Most people are just as nervous as you! But if you begin to implement these five simple steps, you may be shocked at how much easier networking can be. I think of it as “unNetworking” — because when you really connect with people in a non-transactional way, then it’s the opposite of what people usually experience when they experience “networking.”
So go forth and be the unNetworking Guru that I know you can be!