Have you ever been to a conference and ended up not talking to anyone new?
Do you feel down on your luck when it comes to networking?
Do you feel like you’re not reaching your full potential?
One of the secrets to becoming great at networking is to maintain a great attitude towards meeting new people and maintaining relationships. Olympians are perhaps one of the best examples of people who succeed and have exemplary attitudes.
In the spirit of the 2016 Olympic Games, here are a few pointers on how to win the networking game and grow your network with the attitude of an Olympian.
1. Prepare yourself
An Olympian goes through a multitude of trainings to prepare for the big event. Fortunately for you, the preparations you need to do to network effectively are much less strenuous. Mental preparation is key. Here are five important questions to think about before going to a networking meeting:
What do you want to achieve from this networking experience?
Ideally, who do you want to network with?
How can you add value to other people and other businesses?
What is your elevator pitch?
Is there someone in your network that you want to promote and help out?
2. Confidence is key
Anxiety can be a big issue when networking. Many people aren’t naturally comfortable when speaking with strangers for the first time. Now think of what an Olympian might do. Olympians need to overcome their anxieties to perform on an international level with millions of people watching and depending on them. The pressure does not get much higher than that.
However, Olympians are very motivated people. They have the will to win, and it’s important that you also have the will to conquer your fears and win in business. Think about what you have to do in order to get to the finish line. What do you want to achieve from this networking experience? Let your networking goals be the drive that makes you confident. Once you are confident it will be easier for conversation to start flowing.
3. Set realistic goals you want to achieve whilst networking
When going to a business event, keep in mind what your networking goals are. Are you looking for a new business partner? Someone to collaborate with? A new hire?
If your goals are not defined, you are less likely to achieve your target.
4. Know your limits.
Do not run a 1000 metre race if you are trained to run a 100 metre sprint. You must appreciate that each individual has different capabilities.
If you are an early bird and prefer to get things done in the morning, then it might be better to go to morning or afternoon networking events. If you have a late-evening networking event, then know when you feel you have networked enough and feel free to return home. Forcing yourself to stay late will only ruin your next day.
With that thought in mind, it’s also important to be open to pushing your limits once in awhile. You can only find your limits by pushing yourself. If you are always in your comfort zone, you’ll never grow.
5. Keep calm and breathe!
It can be quite easy to get overwhelmed. Whilst speaking with others, try to keep an even breathing pace. As stated in the second point above, confidence is key.
One helpful tip is to start the conversation with a smile. This helps make the situation more casual and relaxed and takes away some of the pressure when making conversation with somebody you do not know.
Another useful tip on how to keep the conversation going is by preparing a number of talking points beforehand. You can discuss the speeches that were just delivered, comment on the food that is being served, and you can also discuss industry trends.
6. Do not be afraid of the hurdles!
There can be a point whilst networking when you might face an awkward situation whereby one minute you’re laughing and talking about a subject and the next- there is drop dead silence.
To be the champion in networking you need to know how to get out of situations like this. An athlete running a 100 metre hurdle race will obviously keep in mind the hurdles that will slow him or her down. Whilst networking keep in mind the obstacles which you may encounter and think about how to avoid them.
Some possible hurdles in networking are not knowing what to say, being asked a question that you think is too personal, or having to discuss a topic in which you and others in the conversation might disagree.
7. Winning comes with practice
To win the golden medal in networking, you must regularly practice your networking skills. This doesn’t mean that you have to go to every networking event in your vicinity, however it does mean that you have to practice your communication skills, have a networking strategy and keep a positive attitude.
See what works and what does not work for you. If you are still new to networking, do not worry if you don’t make much progress in one event. Trials and errors are to be learned from and you just have to dust yourself up and get back in the game!
As the fastest man in the world Usain Bolt said: “Don’t think about the start of the race. Think about the ending”.
Ultimately, one must always go to a conference prepared, fierce and confident. Networking with different individuals can open up so many opportunities for your business and career. Moreover, networking is also a learning opportunity which can help you improve your communication skills.
It is important to remember that anyone can become great at networking. Just like any other skill, networking can be learned. Having said that, it is just a matter of investing time, energy and perhaps even money (for coaching).
Do you want to become the champion at networking? Then what’s keeping you back? Get ready, set and network!