Now that the world has opened back up and in-person events are becoming arguably even more popular than before, it's essential that you freshen up on your networking skills and nail your first impressions. Online, it's easy to direct the conversations surrounding your name and personal brand. You can control most things. Face-to-face, however, requires more finesse and you have less room for error.
In this article, I share 6 simple tips that you can use to nail that lasting first impression and be memorable in the minds of your new connections long after everyone is back in the comfort of their homes. These tips also apply outside of events and can be proven effective at the grocery store, while you're shopping, grabbing coffee, dating, etc.
Body Language and Eye Contact
Making eye contact seems to be a forgotten art. Why would anyone approach you if you’re looking at the floor and avoiding being seen? When you first enter any room look up with confidence and begin to scout out the people you'd like to connect with. If this is an expo or conference, be on the lookout for booths that apply to your business and interests. When you first approach a stranger, act like they are the most important person there. Don't let your eyes or mind wander, instead, keep them engaged with the other person. It's important you come across as personable, not robotic, so as you are talking use your body language to your advantage. Take your hands out of your pockets, stand up straight, smile, and move your arms around some. Loosen up! If necessary, ground yourself before you ever walk into an event by listening to your favorite music or shouting positive mantra's to yourself in the mirror (haha). Whatever works for you!
Give a Firm Handshake
There’s a balance here as you don’t want to break the other person’s hand, but you also don’t want to be limp. Call me old-fashioned, but you can tell a lot about a person by their handshake. I recommend going "web-to-web" which means your hand is fully in the other person's where your thumb meets your index finger. It is understandable that some people may be a little more cautious about physical contact so respect that and have a replacement ready to go. Give a fist bump and turn it into a laughable opportunity. Regardless, this aspect of networking appeals to our familial instincts and our sense of belonging. Whatever you do, don't take out a bottle of hand sanitizer in front of the person you just shook hands with.
Cologne, Confidence, Hygiene, and Mints
If you know you’ll be at an event, there's power in preparation! Wear a reasonable amount of your favorite cologne or perfume, break out the nice watch or necklace, shave your 5 o'clock shadow, get a haircut, and for the love of god have good breath. Rather than chewing gum, get a small tin of mints to keep on your person. I’d argue this is more important than how you dress. Confidence goes a long way but this is by no means saying that you should dress slouchy. You are not always going to be in a suit and tie, or in your best dress. Doing each of the things I mentioned will boost your confidence and it will show. Invest in your appearance. Outside of your own confidence, this makes you much more approachable and even appear trustworthy.
You may feel driven to talk about yourself when making introductions, but it’s usually better to do more asking than talking. This is how you can look for ways to provide value in between conversations and be perceived as attentive and knowledgeable. Automatically viewed as an expert. The first couple of minutes in conversation should be reserved for learning about the other person and what will ironically happen is they will often express a keen interest in you back. Ask about their business, where they're from, what they specialize in, and what they're doing at the event or place. Come across as genuine and curious, not nosy and overbearing. Respect boundaries, but don't be afraid to push a little or introduce playful jokes. This also helps build an immense amount of rapport very quickly and makes it seem like you've known them for years.
Get An NFC Business Card
Short for "Near-Field Communication", NFC is the technology that allows your debit cards to work without swiping, and your phones to act as your wallet. Creative businesspeople have leveraged this tech to create NFC business cards. It is said that the majority of physical business cards get thrown away soon after they're received, but imagine if you could tap a physical card or tag to a person's device and all of your profiles came up? I recommend purchasing from Popl (this is an affiliate link) as I myself have used them for several years and my metal NFC business card turned quite a few heads when I attended Meta Boost Gather in Washington, DC in May 2022.
Collect Social Media Profiles
This is VITAL. Hand the other person your phone and have them follow their profile and vice versa. Afterward or as they’re walking away immediately send them a message saying how great it was to connect at “XYZ event” or wherever you met them. This increases your chances of being followed back and acts as a reminder. It will now be up to you to continue the conversation online and depending on the situation and how you see the relationship working out, you may even schedule a meeting over coffee or lunch where you can talk one-on-one. Regardless, you have a way to contact them in the future, no harm, no foul.
In-person networking can be challenging at times and will likely rely on you to get outside of what you consider comfortable. I can assure you though, if you apply these 6 tips you’ll be farther ahead than nearly everyone else and will be leaving first impressions that last. Remember that the other person is just another person. With time you will come up with your own working tips, and do introductions with ease.
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