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5 Steps To Conquer Any Networking Event

5 Steps To Conquer Any Networking Event

    Let’s say you’re single, lonely, and desperate for a date. That, of course, isn’t actually the case so you’ll need to use your imagination for a moment. Now imagine that you’ve been invited on a group date with the promise that you’ll definitely hit it off with someone special. The organizer isn’t really sure about that but a match seems likely because more than 500 single, lonely, and fairly desperate people will also be on the group date. It sounds like a sure thing, right?

    Wrong.

    When faced with so much opportunity, your first instinct will be to hunker down with a few friendly faces and wait for the end of the evening. Instead of making something amazing happen, you’ll take the safe route. Unfortunately, the safe route often means you go home alone with a story about the one that got away.

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    Unfortunately, most conferences and networking events end just like that. Now what if I told you there was a different way? What if I told you that, continuing the group date example, I could show you how to do background checks on all the attendees and see what they look like in the buff before ever stepping into the same room? You’d be interested, of course!

    While I won’t tell you how to find compromising photos of everyone attending your next networking event, I’ll give you something just as valuable. Here are five steps you can implement and build upon to make the most of your next networking event:

    1. Establish Event-Specific Goals

    Walking into a networking event or conference without a plan is, barring a miracle, a waste of your time. Without a plan you’ll bounce from event to event and float toward the people you already know. But not this time! This time you’re going to establish real goals for what you’ll get from a specific event.

    For example, a small business owner might attend a local meetup of social media types hoping to expand her network with some web-savvy marketers. Instead of saying, “this meetup will give me the chance to make business contacts” she’ll have a specific outcome in mind and won’t waste time on the wrong people.

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    2. Identify & Research Targets

    Now that you’ve established goals for your event experience, it’s time to do some legwork and figure out who will help you reach those goals. Most conferences and meetups have a list of attendees published in a public space, usually online. Smaller events might just have an Eventbrite homepage while big conferences will often maintain a separate list. Many events use hashtags on Twitter so people attending the event can connect beforehand and during the event. Do you see where all this is going?

    The idea is to identify as many event attendees as possible and extract a group of people you most want to connect with. Once you have a list of people attending the event, weed your list based on how certain people could possibly help you reach your goals for the event. If you want to connect with web developers, you’ll not have florists or fishing coaches on your list.

    Once you’ve identified the people you think are worth pursuing at a glance, it’s time to do some research. This might seem tedious and boring, but it’s needed if you want to really get the most of your event. While most of the attendees will stroll into the event with a devil-may-care attitude, you’ll have a short list of targets whose blogs you’ve read, tweets you’ve followed, and major interests you’ve identified. You have a definite advantage!

    3. Use An Event Card

    An event card is exactly like an old school dance card. But instead of scheduling dances with pretty people, you’ll be marking off successful connections with your targets. The simplest version is a plain list of names. That’ll work if you have an amazing memory and ability to place lots of new names with faces. But most of us aren’t so gifted.

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    I prefer to make small cards that include a name, photo, major interests, a thought I had after reading one of my target’s recent blog posts, and a few people also at the event I think they’d enjoy meeting. Putting the time into researching a contact before meeting them has never, ever turned out to be a waste of time for me. It’s an act of faith that has always returned far more than I invested.

    If you want to really do things nicely, add your target contact’s image and information to a special contacts list on your smart phone. That way, when you do get contact information from your new friend, you won’t have to enter anything but their number or email address. If they ask you about why you had their information programmed into your phone already, just tell them you’re a big fan and had planned on meeting them. After all, you are and you did! =)

    4. Establish Your Presence

    There are a few things you should keep in mind as you work to establish your presence as a worthwhile connection to your targets:

    • Whenever you have the chance, show your target that you are somebody worth knowing. If your research revealed that one of your intended contacts has chatted online with another contact, try to be the one to introduce them to each other. (It only takes a moment or two to figure out who your target likes to chat with on a site like Twitter but hasn’t met yet.)
    • As with romantic relationships, dinner is a bigger deal than drinks or a quick chat. If you get the chance to join a prime target for a meal, do it!
    • Try to get contact information for your target that may not be immediately available online. A lot of people have email addresses they give out online or use to sign up for new services. You don’t want that one. You want the one they actually check. Barring a good email address, a friend request via Facebook will usually do just as well. People throw all their personal info there and you’ll have no trouble getting in touch with them!

    When in doubt, friendly conversation and a real effort to listen will at least save you from being labeled as obnoxious!

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    5. Follow Up

    It doesn’t matter how much research you do or how well you woo your targets if you fail to follow up with them after the event! A good rule is to make sure you’ve contacted your targets within 3 days of meeting. Calling is probably too much unless you really hit it off and have already agreed to meet up. Otherwise, a brief email saying hello and reminding your target of the interesting conversation you had, etc. should do the trick.

    Once your target responds, you’re set to continue your relationship and eventually enjoy the fruits of your networking labors! A bit of planning, some basic research, and the will to follow through are the only things standing between you and a robust network of interesting people!

    How could I be such a cold-hearted monster and turn a gathering of wonderful people into a game of numbers and value exchanges? In practice, I don’t always. But just as it’s easier to explain the workings of an automobile engine once it’s been removed from the car, social networking is best explained in unadulterated terms.

    Do you have any questions or a tip of your own to add?

    Image: source

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    Last Updated on January 15, 2019

    How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

    How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

    Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

    In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

    Step right up, don’t be shy!

    Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

    The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

    Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

    Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
    So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

    A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

    Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

    Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

    When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

    Culturally Conditioned

    We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

    I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

    The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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    Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

    Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

    Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

    1. Broadens Your Network

    After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

    2. Improves Your Communication Skills

    I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

    Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

    3. Continually Learning

    So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

    Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

    4. Increases Self Confidence

    Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

    Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

    So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

    How to Talk to Strangers

    Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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    1. Say Hello

    Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

    Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

    Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

    2. Ask About Them

    Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

    You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

    As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

    3. Just Do It

    One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

    When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

    Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

    4. Don’t Take It Personal

    One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

    When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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    5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

    I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

    One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

    6. Detach

    A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

    Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

    7. Share Your Stories

    Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

    To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

    So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

    8. Give a Compliment

    Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

    When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

    9. Relax Your Body Language

    If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

    When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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    If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

    10. Practice, Practice, Practice

    Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

    Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

    After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

    The Bottom Line

    As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

    There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

    Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

    Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

    More Resources About Strengthening Communication Skills

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

    Reference

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