Do you love or hate networking events? Most people fall at one of the two extremes, and almost everyone has passionate opinion about the effectiveness of these occasions. Some people have stories about the “just right” confluence of time, place and people and that big project just magically happened. Other people have stories about attending event, after event, after event… and coming up completely and utterly dry.
So here are a few tips about networking and some new things to try at your next networking event, from the field of positive psychology:
Go in with positive emotions
The work of Barbara Fredrickson tells us that positive emotions “broaden and build”. People are more open to new ideas when they are in a positive frame of mind, as well as physically seeing more. They have better resilience and bounce back faster from disappointment. How does this help you in a networking situation? You will capture more of the conversation and see connections between you and the other person more readily. And how do you get yourself into a positive mood? Well there are many ways to do it – a brisk walk ahead of time in the sun, or seeing a funny movie, or listening to uplifting music of your choice.
Build positive relationships
Networking is all about relationships. How do you craft new relationships? Even though people tend to go into a networking session focused on themselves (do I look ok? I really need to find my next gig….), they key is to focus on the other person. What do they need? What brought them to this event? What problems do they have for which they are seeking solutions? By putting your focus and genuine interest onto them, you are starting to create a meaningful relationship.
Use your strengths
There are many different ways to work a room and you have to go with your strengths on this one. If you are more of an achiever, motivated by goals and lists of things to-do, then you might set yourself the goal of meeting X number of people or collecting Y number of business cards. If you prefer to interact with people one-on-one, then look for the quiet ones standing in the corner of the room and approach them first. If you are more of a strategist, spend some time observing the dynamics of the room and plan your approach accordingly.
Know your meaning
Ultimately, what do you want to get from this networking event? What will make it a success for you? You can’t control what happens as far as other people are involved (yes, it will be a success if you find that perfect client with the multi-million dollar contract that is tailored to your specific skill set…) but consider what it within your own control – that you will attend, initiate conversations with as many people as it takes to find one meaningful and relevant conversation, that you will stay until the end, and so on.
And if nothing else, try something new that you’ve never done before to improve your networking chances. New business cards, a new handshake, a new way of introducing yourself. Small changes can make a big difference – and you’ll learn from this event to prepare you for the next one.
Lisa Sansom is the Founder of LVS Consulting. A certified coach and positive psychology practitioner, Lisa helps businesses, teams and individuals be at their best. For more information, please visit LVS Consulting or email Lisa directly at firstname.lastname@example.org