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Impress The Important Ones At Networking Events By Following This 5-Step Plan

Impress The Important Ones At Networking Events By Following This 5-Step Plan

Regardless of your age or profession, you cannot escape the importance that networking plays in defining modern-day career success. While older professionals may claim that they have developed their career to date without adopting aggressive networking practices, changes to the way in which employers evaluate and recruit candidates for work mean that these are now increasingly important.

This applies to both virtual and physical networking practices, which are known to deliver a return in terms of human and monetary capital. By targeting relevant networks online and attending physical meetings and events, it is possible to cultivate a strong presence among your peers and earn new business contracts.

A 5-Step Plan for impressing your Peers at Networking Events

With this in mind, here is a five-step plan for successfully targeting relevant networking events and impressing your fellow attendees:

1. Thoroughly Research Relevant Events and Establish Specific Goals

If you are determined to make an impression, it is imperative that you prepare fully and establish event-specific goals prior to attending. This is because not all events are created equal, and while some may not be relevant to your service others may be aimed at a niche demographic of attendees.

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Fortunately, you can use LinkedIn to search for relevant events, either through your own contacts or groups or by perusing a comprehensive list of open communities on the site. From here, you can review the description of the event and research individual members, while also reviewing the topics that tend to be discussed both online and at physical network meetings. If you want to conduct a more comprehensive search, you can also follow any event-specific hashtags on Twitter and connect with some of the listed attendees.

With a clear understanding of an event, its purpose and regular attendees, you can begin to establish event specific goals and identify the people that will help you to achieve them. Prioritise the people that you want to connect with based on their role and level of influence, before preparing topics for discussion that can provide an entry point into a longer-term relationship.

2. Establish your Presence as a Thought Leader

Attempting to network successfully should be a long-term goal, and it may require significant time and effort to achieve this. After you have begun to target networks and specific events, for example, the next step is to connect with members and establish your presence as a knowledgeable and proactive thought leader.

Thought leadership can essentially be described as the entry point into a relationship, and there are a number of ways that you can use this to engage event members and connections. Apart from adopting a proactive role in communicating with fellow members and introducing new members that can add value to the group, you should take the opportunity to publish and share information that is relevant to your industry. Look to share insightful, real-time news items with contacts through Twitter and LinkedIn, for example, using the content to spark debates and social conversations.

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You should also look to use blogging as a viable thought leadership tool, publishing industry-relevant content that can intrigue and challenge members of the group. If you do follow this particular course, focus on developing detailed and informative posts that are consistent, topical and ultimately relevant to the theme of the networking event.

3. Attend the Event well-resourced and Immaculately Presented

After a period of time, you will have established yourself as a revered and well-liked member of your specific networking group. This makes the process of engaging fellow members in person at a networking event far easier, although your hard work can be undone if you are ultimately unprepared or make a poor physical impression.

To begin with, make sure that you are smartly and appropriately dressed for the occasion. Remember that this is a professional event, and you should wear similar attire as you would when attending a job interview or client meeting. Business-casual attire should be fine, although if you are in doubt research previous events for photographic evidence of how other members dressed. By presenting an immaculate appearance, you will underline the fact that you are taking the event seriously and reinforce your value as a network member.

In terms of preparation, you will also need to make sure that you have a set of professional business cards with you when you attend the event. If you leave these at home or simply forget to share them with fellow members, you may undermine the impression that you make at the event. Similarly, be sure to retain the business cards of key influencers who you have yet to connect with online, and strive to initiate further content within 24 hours of the event.

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4. Develop an Emotive, Human Connection

We have already spoken about the importance of creating an entry point into a relationship prior to attending an event, and it is crucial to build on this by developing a human connection when meeting people in person. This can help to create business relationships that transcend an online network, establishing bonds that are genuine and based on multiple emotive factors such as trust, integrity and shared pursuits.

This type of emotive, human connection depends on effective communication skills, and more specifically the ability to ask insightful questions and listen intently to the answers. While the primary goal of any networking event may be to build a more successful career, it is crucial that you strive to develop mutually beneficial relationships that can stand the test of time. Strive to understand the underlying qualities of fellow members and their unique motivation to succeed, absorbing their responses to learn more and get a clearer understanding of them as individuals.

According to Tony Robbins, the quality and insightfulness of your questioning correlates to the quality of your life, which in turn reinforces your value as an individual. Above all else, the process of engaging individuals in a two-way conversation and learning from their responses lays the foundation for a distinctly human relationship.

5. Follow up after the Event and maintain a Tenacious approach to Communication

While you may adopt a focused approach to identifying and attending viable events, others are far more prolific on the networking scene. So even if you are successful in engaging potential contacts and making a positive impression, this will mean little if you fail to follow-up with regular and proactive communication.

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If you are not to become just another face in the crowd, it is crucial that you are tenacious in your approach and connect further with the attendees who you met at the event. Aside from continuing your role as an active member of the group’s online interaction through LinkedIn and Twitter, you should also follow-up by sending emails to those who you connected with thanking them for their time and insight. Once they respond, you can continue to communicate and create a two-way dialogue in-between networking events.

On a note of caution, be sure to maintain some boundaries when communicating with fellow members. Use professional means of communication only, while also targeting individuals with whom you developed a significant rapport. This ensures that every interaction is natural and capable of being sustained over time.

Featured photo credit: Pixabay – Life of Pixs via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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