A large international network is vital for a digital nomad or freelancer, like I said in my video. Especially when you are new in a place, one of the first things you should do is meet new people. I personally find it very natural and easy, but I know for others it’s hard to approach strangers. It’s a matter of personality, confidence and experience. However, we all have to overcome our fears and do what will help us progress in life, as well as in our career.
So, this is why I am sharing my 8 networking tips that will work in any situation.
I think the ABC of networking tips is to be yourself. Don’t try to play a role that you think others will like because you will sound fake, weird and unpleasant. I am 100% me when I meet new people, even in business situations because I think at the end of the day what they will remember is the energy I was able to vehicle. And I can tell you, it pays off: people always say that what they like about me is that I sound very genuine, which makes it easy to be around me. If you say something just to impress, you’ll sound artificial and you won’t get to your goal. On the other hand, if you share your true passion, people will feel it and what you say will be way more memorable. A dance teacher once taught me “it’s never what you do, it’s how you do it” and this is something I apply to any situation in life. Also when meeting new people.
Don’t have an agenda
When you are in a situation that might be good for network building, it’s good to set some goals such as approach 5 people. However, don’t have an agenda when you talk. There is nothing worse than sounding desperately in need of someone’s attention and help. People around you will feel uncomfortable and will want to talk someone else. They might even avoid you during the entire event. I also don’t recommend to handle your business card right away or ask to exchange them. Especially if it you are talking to an influential person. It would look like if you had an agenda and nobody likes to be taken advantage of. Wait until you had a stimulating conversation and it will become natural. Always remember that if the aim of your conversation is to know the people without asking anything in return, you will have a more pleasant chat that will more likely lead to something useful. And this brings us to the next point
Try to help people rather than asking something from them
When you talk to people, listen carefully to what they say. Ask questions, show interest in what they say and try to find how you can help them. Maybe you can connect them with someone who might be useful for them or you can suggest a book. They will appreciate your empathy and effort regardless and automatically like you. They will also be keener to help you and connect with you. To me business relationships are like any personal relationship: you get what you give. This is why I always treat them as such.
Be open to people and never assume anything
Great networking situations can come out of the blue anywhere, if you are open to them. For instance, I made a great contact on my way to Bali, and it was not the first time that I expanded my network on the plane. How do I do that? I try to be friendly and talk to people, starting with a small talk, which sometimes turns into an amazing conversation. I also tend not to assume anything based on people’s appearance or role. You can never know who the person sitting next to you is, what they are doing, what they are looking for and who they know. Trying doesn’t hurt. But, of course, it only works if they are keen to having a conversation. Don’t be the annoying person forcing a conversation.
Sometimes we are very concerned about our appearance, what people might think about us etc. that we forget the basics: look genuinely nice. In a networking event, there is nothing more inviting than an authentic smile. Smiling also releases tensions from our nerves, making us look calmer and more at ease. So, smile before you enter the room and, especially, when you start a conversation. With a positive attitude people will be more comfortable around you and therefore, keener to chat with you. We all feel more attracted to a happy and calm person than to someone in a negative mood. So, if you had a bad day, leave it at the entrance and walk to the event with confidence. You have the power to turn it into a success.
Always remember a personal detail from the ones you talked to
When you are having a conversation, the person you are talking to will naturally mention something personal. For instance, that they can’t make it to the next networking event because their mother has a surgery on that day. When the conversation goes to a more personal level, you will become a little closer. This is a great opportunity you should take advantage of. Try to remember or write down that personal detail, because it can make the difference when you mention it in your follow up. Of course, don’t be pushy or intrusive. The person will appreciate your genuine interest and be keener to talk to you again or maybe help you.
Show up early and go to the buffet or bar
Especially when you are new in a place or you are planning to become a freelancer, you need more contacts and, therefore, you have to go to any possible event that will help you expand your network. Even for the most extroverted person it is not always easy to approach strangers, especially if they are already talking in groups. This is why I would recommend to show up early. It is very likely that you will spot somebody who is looking around hoping for someone to talk to them. I always tell myself to be the bigger person and break the ice. If you find it really hard, go to the buffet or bar and stand around them. I think it’s the best place to position yourself because it’s where everybody will eventually go. On the other hand, food or drinks are the perfect excuse to start a good conversation.
If you had pleasant and interesting conversations with the people at the event, you will have naturally exchanged some business cards or contacts. I personally like to follow up with all the people I talked to. If we discussed something in particular, I would mention it in my message, to make it easier for the person to remember me. I also try to include the little personal detail they shared with me. But, most of all, if I said I would have connected the person to someone, I do it. I give myself 24 hours, but tend to do it right after the event. Sending an email only takes a couple of minutes, but it can make the difference. I think that especially if you are young and at the beginning of your career, you should be the one taking the first step. Never assume others would do it. Especially if you talked to a very influential person, have the courage to respectfully get in touch with them, they will always appreciate it. You might even impress them.
Now to you, what do you do in networking events? How do you expand your network? Leave a comment, would love to hear from you!