Networking is hugely important, and often in ways you can never predict. You never know how someone you meet today may open the door for you tomorrow. That’s why being able to work a room is a really key business skill. Unfortunately, for many people it’s not a skill that comes naturally. Fortunately, though, it’s something that can be learned. Here are some suggestions, though, that may help you learn how to work a room:
Think about the demographic that will be attending the event and go over some key ideas or messages that would likely interest that particular group of people. Rehearse some conversations and think very specifically about what you might say – not just in response to follow-up questions, but also in regards to the initial introduction.
Give the right impression.
Obviously, you should be dressed appropriately for the event, but it is also important to give off the right impression through your mannerisms and demeanor. That is, make sure that you smile warmly when you meet someone. Make direct eye contact and say their name. Also, as you’re talking to them, make sure you are – or at least appear to be – paying attention. Little things matter in giving the right impression – and you only get one first impression, so make it count.
Remember you’re not alone.
That is, there are probably quite a few other people who are feeling uncomfortable as well. Some shyness research has shown that 90 percent of people feel uncomfortable in group settings, especially when the group is made up of strangers.
Don’t only ask questions.
Although asking questions is a key piece of getting to know someone, just asking a series of questions make the introduction very one-sided, which is something that people tend to catch onto quickly. When you ask a question, you should also respond to the other person’s answer and reveal something about yourself.
It’s kind of okay to interrupt.
Since you’re all there to meet other people, networking events are one situation in which it’s okay to go up and join an existing conversation. You can jump into the conversation without seeming awkward or rude, as long as you aren’t actually interrupting someone who is speaking. Sometimes there aren’t people standing alone in the room, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait until you find someone who is; just approach a pair or small group and listen until you find a good opportunity to jump in.