How to Network and Make the Best First Impression
Dignity recently went to the Women's founder Meetup held at the Biz Dojo. We had an incredible speaker from Little Yellow Bird describe their ethical clothing social enterprise and growing their business from one to fifty customers.
What we couldn't help but notice was things during the event we were kicking ourselves for not doing. Here's a collection of networking tips to make sure you go home feeling like jumping over a rainbow with how you went. Don't worry if you don't get it right the first time or if these tips don't work for you, these are guiding points that can help you on your journey to becoming an A+ networker.
How to network: Lessons from going to a Women's founder Meetup if we could make a first impression again.
1. Do your research
Before going to this event, even on the walk or bus over, use those secret stalking skills and research who the speakers/organisers/attendees are. There is nothing worse (but not impossible) to go to an event where you have no idea who the speaker is - or an inkling as to how they may be relevant to a particular part of your life.
Google them! Do a LinkedIn or Twitter stalk, read their blogs or go through their website. Not only will this help with your questions but also the interest level you will have to make sure you're not snoozing in the front row.
2. Sit at the front
Yes, we know there is a tendency like we did to stay quiet and stick to back seat bandits ready to observe not only the speaker but also the audience. This isn't a time to look cool, this is war against the opportunity cost of sitting in bed, eating chocolate and watching friends reruns - time to make this venture outdoors worth it.
Trust us that your experience and immersion into the presentation is magnified by one hundred by sitting at the front (away from the back where someone might be clicking a pen nonstop, gossiping to the person next to them, running in late or tweeting the whole thing live).
At the front you get to engage with the speaker. Sitting at the front makes you a lot more memorable as you go to talk to them at the end as well as being literally first in line to nab them first with all your questions you may have. You're also at this advantage of questions, people at the back have a lesser chance of having their hand seen and spotted by the speaker - got a burning question then sit at the front and pay attention
3. Write down questions you want to ask
This may seem dumb but before asking a question write it out before you say it. Not only will you be able to read if it makes sense, when you get called upon you can have a cheeky glance down and know the question you’re asking covers your points. This ensures your questions are waffle free for a better rate of return on what you want to know and everyone else’s time.
4. The trifecta of networking: Smile, eye contact and greet
Some people you may smile at when they walk past. Some you may lock in eye contact with. Some people you might squeak a hello at them. However, when you smile, make eye contact and say “hi” - these three things show via body language you are genuinely interested in the other human being. This is a foolproof tip for you to successfully begin the adulting task of "networking".
5. Do the damn handshake
So once you’ve met your cool new person with the trifecta of networking now what do you do? There's this weird taboo as a female that means your brain is seriously unsure whether to handshake or not. Isn't that a man's thing to do? Aren't we meant to hug, wave or stand meekly to the side? Certainly not do the damn handshake. Hold out your hand, make eye contact and make firm (not crippling) grip. Ta-da!
6. Get social
With this we mean online! Share the event, tweet with the event hashtag. You might connect with other people in the room you won't be able to meet all in one night. It's a great way to express your thoughts in real time and nudge your way into real networking. Take photos and share the occasion but....
7. Have your phone close but not glued to you
Take a good old fashion pen and paper for your notes or/and questions you want to write down. Tweeting is great but so is making sure the speaker has an engaged audience that wants to hear them. Just imagine if that was you talking to a bunch of strangers and all you could see was thirty scalps staring right at you (yeah not pretty but you get the point). Place your phone under your seat or face down on your lap switched on silent. We've all seen enough opening movie warnings to understand why.
8. Talk to everyone
With this, we mean not just the girl you knew from that university tutorial during your second year. We mean everyone - whatever their age and whatever institute they went to. Differences are in fact what makes people interesting.
The way to becoming a better person and entrepreneur is connecting with a wide group of people. Networks are meant to contain a diverse group of people including age. Networking doesn't exist to grow your Instagram followers, it's to expand your connections that will help with your future endeavours. These people can influence and point you ways that no like on your pictures ever could.
9. Bring snacks
Specifically relevant if the event specifically asks you to bring along some nibbles. After numerous discussions about shared freak outs of what to bring to an adult networking event in comparison to the days of school shared lunches, it seems the etiquette is not too different. Sure you can splash out on those quinoa crackers but who doesn't love a good mallow-puff at the end of the day? Food is a great way as we all know to procrastinate and build up strength for another networking interaction. It can actually be a perfect stalling topic much like the weather. For example "It was really windy today don't you think?" has the same small talk effect of "gosh I remember mallow-puffs from when I was a kid don't you?" Same but different but effective.
10. Stay until the end like a trooper
There’s an old wives tale that the real networking happens after the networking which is entirely true. After the meeting and the crowd has died down, this is where you can really get to know people. Be prepared to stack some chairs and put some dishes away but ultimately stacking a dishwashing is a low price to pay for a great connection that'll help with your next business phase #winning.
So there you have it, tips for what Dignity would do at their next networking event!
Let us know what you think of these tips and what else you would like to hear Dignity write about.
Jacinta & Miranda