Hate networking? So did I, until I tried these tricks – Entrepreneur | Region & Cash

Opinions expressed by entrepreneur Contributors are their own.

Sometimes people wonder if they even need to try to meet someone new.

The prospect of new names to remember and boring initial calls can be difficult for some. But when you grow your business, networking works.

Being more Covid-safe about meeting up with strangers, I recently decided to attend a networking event even though I hate meeting new people. I know I’m not good at it, but I force myself to do it anyway. In my company (Bospar) the saying “politely pushy” applies – that means charm and assertiveness are the keys to success. When it comes to networking, being politely intrusive can help make a good impression.

Prepare your network game

First you have to think about why they want to network in the first place. The primary question is: What are you looking for?

Understanding your goals allows for better targeting of networking events. I look for events that integrate my interests including tech PR, journalism, LGBTQIA advocacy and science fiction. When an event has some of these attributes, I know I’ll get more involved.

Related: What to do when you don’t know anyone in the room

Wear something that says something

I recently attended a Pride Month networking event hosted by Out In Tech. Rather than show up in a Silicon Valley uniform—a hoodie and sneakers—I chose my outfit to help break the ice.

I paired my shirt with a silver thread jacket and complemented it with sparkling crystal slippers. My clothing choices paid off and my wardrobe was the conversation starter I was hoping for.

rehearse

I’m a big fan of rehearsals. I always practice my elevator pitch and when asked about my business, I play it cool.

“We started years ago as a distributed agency, representing brands like PayPal, Snowflake and Tetris, and we’ve taken several companies public. We’ve also engaged with Texas over its abortion ban, and we’re leading crisis communications for SF Pride this year.”

All of these data points are something of a humble boast, so I try to provide these facts in one call rather than all at once.

See also: How to become a master at conversing with strangers

when you are in rome

When I arrive at events I immediately grab a drink because networking is a long game and that kind of socializing suits the mood. I often approach people with a shtick and make eye contact with people who notice my wardrobe. And then I say, “Thanks, I wore them to break the ice.”

Once the ice is broken, I actively listen and do my best to understand each person’s work and aspirations. I make an effort to spend five minutes and then excuse myself to meet other people.

Networking events mean you can be transactional, and people accept that. I usually give people my card and promise to follow up to mark the end of the conversation. I consider it professional speed dating.

Recommended course of action

At events I follow a pattern. I do laps around the bar looking for “in” opportunities like finding a wallflower or a group that needs a break.

I’ll start off with my typical “Hey, I hope you don’t mind, but I really wanted to introduce myself.” I find that you can be a little bossy at networking events as long as it appears that the other person has an engaging quality that draws you in.

There are some networking ideas I wanted to steal, such as a name tag that says “Working at Tesla – for now”.

Successful networking is really about bringing all your skills together to connect with people. Treat every networking event like a date and dress to be memorable. Interact quickly and often, giving others what they need from your conversations. Follow-up after the event includes connecting with new professional friends via social media and sharing photos when appropriate to cement those connections. Sharing these posts is a good reason to keep in touch with new colleagues.

By integrating these skills, networking events won’t be horrible one-time events — they become a powerful new tool to identify prospects and grow your network of contacts.

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