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5 Networking Connections Every Entrepreneur Needs to Make

5 Networking Connections Every Entrepreneur Needs to Make

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    Networking is a crucial skill for any entrepreneur. But if a person has been building his network with getting the biggest stack of business cards in the state, that network can be useless. The key to creating a network you can rely on is building a useful network — making connections for specific reasons and finding people that will help you and you can help in return. There are a few connections in particular that you need to make, in order to get ahead.

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    Making these connections isn’t just a matter of seeking out people who you think can be useful to you. Building a network is just as much about helping out the people you connect with as it is finding solutions for your own problems. Furthermore, your efforts to connect with others will be far more enjoyable if you seek out people with whom you actually want to have some sort of relationship or friendship. It is possible to build up a network without a whole lot of sincerity, but it’s not worthwhile. In most communities, though, you can find your connections among people you actually like joining for coffee.

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    1. Your competitors
      It’s worthwhile to know your competitors as well as possible. Get their newsletters, pay attention to their advertising and go one step further — introduce yourself. Even competitors can do your business some good: if you’re on friendly terms, your competitor may just send customers your way if he or she is too busy. And, if a project comes up that you know your competitor would do well at, you can bring in their expertise. At a bare minimum, join the local professional association for your business and make some contacts among the other professionals in your area.
    2. The local media
      These days, media can take many forms: newspapers, television, radio, blogs and more. But it’s worth making at least one or two contacts with members of the media that cover your niche. You’ll have a much easier time of getting a story in the news if you can attach a personal note explaining why you think that the story fits a reporter’s beat — many media members see this sort of help as a favor done to them. If you bring up industry-related stories, where your business isn’t the main focus, you’ll have a better chance of becoming your contact’s go-to-guy for quotes. It’s a long-term strategy, but sharing stories on a regular basis can get your business in the news far more often than even a perfectly crafted newsletter.
    3. A non-profit
      Networking is, in part, about giving back. As an entrepreneur, it’s useful to have connections to local non-profits far beyond the tax break you’ll get for any donations you make. You’ll get word of sponsorship and PR opportunities far faster, learn about projects that might help your business along — and you may even have the chance to do something good for your community. A non-profit doesn’t have to be related to your industry, either: if you’re ready to do some good in your community, why not work on an issue you’re passionate about?
    4. A lawyer or two
      Want the scoop on whether the lawyer handling your business is any good? Have another lawyer in town that you can ask. The same goes for other professions, as well. It’s hard to work with more than one lawyer at a time — and it’s often better to work with a lawyer who isn’t your best friend — but you can know quite a few, and you can keep close tabs on situations that may affect your business. Of course, you don’t want to spend every moment of a lunch pestering a friend for free legal advice, but it is okay to ask the occasional question.
    5. Local politicians
      There isn’t a business in existence that is entirely exempt from local politics. From zoning to licensing, there’s sure to be an area or two in which local politics affects your business. It makes sense to meet the men and women making those decisions: if you do find yourself involved in a political issue, knowing the politicians mixed up in the same issue will at least ensure that your side is heard. Politicians’ influence isn’t the only reason to get involved in local politics, either. Your business is part of the community and that means you probably have some ideas on how your community should operate. Supporting like-minded politicians is a personal decision, but it can have some major ripple effects.

    There’s nothing wrong with going to a networking event with a shopping list of sorts. After all, as an entrepreneur, there are certain people that are going to be better equipped to help you with your business than others. If you have a good idea of who you want to meet — and why — you’ll have a better ROI on every networking event you go to. You can get the introductions out of the way quickly and get down to building a relationship with your new contacts. You may even find yourself on the must-meet list of other entrepreneurs when you attend networking opportunities. You don’t have to limit yourself to events, though: if you’ve heard about someone interesting in your area, there’s nothing mercenary about setting out to meet them. Invite them out to lunch, arrange an introduction through a third party — it’s worth taking a few extra steps to see how you can help a new connection (or maybe even how they can help you).

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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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