In-person networking is completely underrated. Thanks to the development of social media platforms like LinkedIn—which, let’s face it, is fantastic for networking—many professionals have opted to exclusively network in the digital realm.
This is effective, to an extent, but the reality is, in-person networking should still be in your arsenal, no matter what your networking goals are. Not everybody uses social media, and there’s no real substitute for the chemistry, body language, and dialogue you can achieve when meeting someone in person.
Still, in-person networking has changed a lot in the past several years. Here are seven tips to help you become a better in-person networker.
1. Work on your Opener:
Your opening line will be responsible for forming people’s first impressions of you, and setting the tone for the conversation you’re about to have. You’ll need to make sure your line is interesting, accessible to a total stranger, but most of all—it needs to be unique. You need to stand out if you want to be memorable, as most people are sick of hearing the same lines over and over again. Going into a conversation with “great weather, huh?” is bound to lump you in with every other schmuck at the event.
2. Push your Comfort Zone:
If you want to meet new people, you have to go to new places. That’s why it’s important to push your comfort zone. Go to an event for an industry you’re not directly affiliated with, or attend a place outside your usual geographic range. Even if you don’t meet someone who can help you achieve your goals, you’ll get something valuable out of the experience. Open yourself to a wider variety of networking opportunities—or even go out of your way to meet people on the street.
3. Try Talking to Everyone:
If you think about it, every new person you meet has a chance of being a valuable connection. Therefore, the more people you talk to, the higher percentage chance you’ll have at running into the person you really need. Make the most of your in-person networking events by talking to as many people as you can find, even if that means cutting some of your conversations short. Learn as much as you can about people in the span of a few minutes, get contact information if it seems like a good fit, then move on to talk to the next person. It’s the best way to get the full value of an event.
4. Connect Digitally:
Just because you’re networking in person doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the benefits social media has to offer. If you connect with someone valuable, make sure you connect with them on social media. You can even use social media as a means of introducing yourself if you have a strong personal brand. This is a way to bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds, and get the best of both worlds in your networking efforts.
5. Cycle In and Out of Regular Events:
Many networking events are regular features; for example, your city might have a weekly gathering for entrepreneurs, or a monthly professional social event. These events are good, but try not to become a regular there. These events are often packed with the same crowd, over and over again, and if you keep tapping that same crowd, you’ll miss out on more diverse opportunities elsewhere.
6. Focus on Getting to Know People:
Most people go into networking with an agenda, or a series of goals. Instead of focusing on your goals, just focus on getting to know people better. Work to learn who they are, what they like, and what their goals are—the rest will naturally follow.
7. Be Yourself:
This is an underrated tip, but it’s indispensable for networking success. Too many people go into networking events with a false personality—a kind of mask or layer of themselves they put on because they think it’s what people want to see and hear. The reality is, most of these fake personalities are easily detectable and are not only awkward, but annoying. Instead, relax, and strive to be yourself. Let your natural personality out, and people will like you more—they’ll feel your sincerity, and they’ll be able to relate to it.
In-person networking isn’t the key to networking success, but it should be an integral part of your strategy, along with a social media networking strategy. As with most things in the professional world, the more you practice it, the better you’re going to get, so be sure to spend at least one day a week going out and meeting other professionals in your area—you never know who you might meet.