Impact is everything. You know when someone has it. They light up a room when they walk in. There is an aura of energy which draws others to them. It’s the foundation of personal success at work, at home and in your social life too. It is something to develop – it’s a skill, not a talent. In my experience people who have positive impact, not only when networking, share three characteristics:
- they have high levels of Energy
- they are capable of building Empathy
- they have Emotional Intelligence
These same characteristics are necessary for successful networking. Also, great networkers tend to be curious and genuinely interested in others. They keep the channels of communication open and are receptive to new thoughts and experiences. They are non-judgmental and see links and connections between people, ideas and concepts. Remember Dale Carnegie’s advice “to be interesting, be interested.”
Networking is about building relationships. Relationships enrich your life and forward your career. It makes sense to network continually. There is an important rule for success. Your success will be in direct proportion to the number of people you know and who positively know you. Your aim is to become known, liked and trusted by the people you want in your corner.
Here are some techniques for improving your professional impact and tips on perfecting the art of successful networking:
- Define what it is you want to get out of the event. Once you are clear about the impact you want to make, or opportunity you wish to create it makes it easier to plan for it.
- Know what you have to offer. Make a list and be proud of it. The list should contain your expertise, skills, experiences, training, qualities and attributes. This list also represents how you can be useful to others.
- Make a mind-map of your current network e.g. work, social, sports & hobbies, professional associations, clients, industry sectors, alumni – education as well as former work. See where the gaps are and how you can expand your network and form an action plan.
- At the event make sure you introduce yourself to others. Don’t wait to be asked. Being concise and personable will generates interest. What are the first twelve words you will say? Try to be distinctive and engaging. Slow down and remember to breathe.
- Try motivating yourself with positive talk. Think SHINE before you step into the room. SHINE stands for Smile, Handshake, Eye Contact, Name and Enthusiasm.
- Focus on people so you can remember their name and what they do. Be an active listener and remember that “nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care” – Theodore Roosevelt.
- Connect with people you think can help you learn. If you meet someone you admire or read something written by a person you might learn from, don’t be afraid to contact them. Ask them how they became an expert in their field and be prepared to share something in return.
- Use a small notebook or make notations on business cards you collect as memory joggers and follow up reminders. If you say you will email or call, do it promptly. Don’t make promises that you know you won’t keep like saying you will be in touch when you have no intention.
- Networking is about giving as well as taking. You can gain a lot from other people, but remember to give back. If you try to be useful to others, you will be rewarded many times over. Be a ‘go-giver’ not just a ‘go-getter’. For inspiration read The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea by Bob Burg and John David Mann.
- Be generous. Introduce someone on their own to other people. They will remember you for the professional courtesy. Remember Maya Angelou’s wise advice: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
- Many people feel awkward about disengaging from one contact to move on to the next. There is no need. Everyone at a networking event experiences the same feeling. Acknowledge it with a smile, politely excuse yourself and move on. No one will be offended if you do it with grace and style. After all, that is why you are all there.
- The bedrock of effective networking is confidence. Even if you don’t feel it, start to act confident, and you will be amazed how different it will make you feel. Fake it until you make it.
How successful you will be in improving personal impact and developing networking skills comes down to two things: your perspective; and how willing you are to work at it. Some of these ideas are simple and obvious– yet it’s surprising how few people apply them daily. Put them into practice: you’ll be astonished the big difference small changes can make.
Beverly Landais is an Accredited Executive Coach with a successful senior business background, including at board-level.