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5 Tips For Networking at Events

5 Tips For Networking at Events

These days we learn more about networking on social media than we do networking in real life situations. Here John Corcoran of Dumb Little Man and former Clinton White House Writer shares five tips for face-to-face networking at events:

Social media is hot. Everyone is talking about Facebook, Twitter, and every other social media site under the sun. These are great tools for building and maintaining relationships. But they aren’t everything. When it comes to developing powerful relationships, social media is still no substitute for old-fashioned, face-to-face networking.

In-person networking is simply one of the best activities you can engage in for your career or your business, hands down. Anyone who thinks they can stay behind their computer, holed away at home, relying 100% on social media for meeting people and developing key relationships is fooling themselves.

In fact, the most effective networking approach today is twofold: one part online, and one part old-fashioned, face-to-face, in-person networking. They are two sides of the same coin. A good networking plan does not rely too much on either online or offline networking, but does include aspects of both.

How Face-to-Face Networking Is Different 

Face-to-face networking is very different from social networking. For starters, you’ll actually need to put on pants. Sorry, but this is a mandatory requirement. If you work from home, that means you may need to change out of your pajamas (hopefully it’s not the first time in days).

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I recognize that networking at in-person events is more difficult for those who are shy or introverted. However, there are many little “hacks” you can use to make face-to-face networking easier on yourself, whether you are introverted or not.

Here are a 5 killer hacks for networking effectively at old-fashioned, in-person events:

1.  Commit Yourself to Helping Others.

Before you go to any networking event, I want you to summon your most positive, can-do, helpful attitude, and I want you to not even think about getting clients, customers, or a new job. For some people, this may seem completely counter-intuitive. After all, isn’t the whole point of networking to get more business or to further your career?

The truth is, if you go into an in-person networking event just thinking about yourself, people will sniff you out in a heartbeat. You’ll stand out more than Bugs Bunny dressed up as a girl.

Conversely, if you commit yourself to helping others in any way possible – be it a restaurant recommendation, or a tech tip, or a book suggestion – you will be more human and people will want to help you in return.

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Here’s the “hack” part – after your event, email at least 1 or 2 people you met at the event with a tip, advice, resource, or some other way to help, based on what you learned about them. This one little step will go a long way.

2.  Make An Introduction.

I love introducing people. If you introduce two people and they hit it off, they will always be grateful to you. Trust me on this – my parents first met on a blind date.

And people who you have introduced to someone else are more likely to return the favor. This works even with people you just met at an in-person networking event.

3. Connect with People Over their Families.

You know that saying, “the easiest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”?  Well, I believe the easiest way to a networking partner’s heart is through their immediate family members.

At most networking events, people talk about work-related or industry-related subjects. That’s what everyone else does, but you don’t need to do that. You can really distinguish yourself by talking about a person’s spouse or family, if you get the right opportunity.

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If you just met someone and start asking about a person’s family without the proper opening, they’re probably just going to think you’re a weirdo. But if you do get an opening, then asking about a person’s family and looking for opportunities to help their children or spouse is an excellent hack for getting to know them a lot better.

4.  If You Are Shy or Introverted, Focus on Others.

I get asked a lot about what advice I have for people who really hate networking because they are shy or introverted. If you are really shy and don’t like meeting new people, then the best advice I can give you is that the best conversationalists often don’t talk much at all. 

People love talking about themselves, and if you ask a lot of questions and take a lot of interest in them, you don’t have to be a good conversationalist. Most people will enjoy the opportunity to speak about themselves to a captive audience.  And they will enjoy speaking with you.

5.  Use the 80/20 Rule for Following Up.

If you were to measure the amount of time most people spend on networking activities aimed at meeting new people vs. the amount of time they spend following up with the people they already know, you’d be shocked at how imbalanced it is.

People spend too much time trying to meet new people and too little time following up with and nurturing relationships with people they already know.

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In fact, your efforts should be the other way around: use the 80/20 rule (aka the Pareto Principle) to further and develop relationships with your existing network.

This in turn will lead to meeting new people because people who you already know are more likely to be a gateway for you to their friends and connections.

After all, you have already spent time and energy getting to know people in your network and they have already (presumably) grown to know, like and trust you.

So be sure to spend time and energy networking with people who are in your network already.

John Corcoran is an attorney, former Clinton White House Writer, and creator of SmartBusinessRevolution.com, where he writes how to network effectively.

5 Killer “Hacks” for Networking at Events | Dumb Little Man

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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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