Over the last couple of weeks I’ve found myself in a number of networking situations. My goal, of course, was to meet people and build my network of contacts with whom I could partner. But what I noticed during these events was how other professionals who were there for the same reason exhibited behaviors that were in conflict with what they were trying to accomplish. Some of the ineffective actions I noticed were:
– An angry, scared or furtive manner.
– Getting involved in a conversation with someone they already knew (comfort zone).
– Dominating a conversation by talking only about themselves.
– Standing alone and talking to no one.
– Focusing on the food and giveaways more than on meeting others.
Now I know most people, including myself, find that meeting people and starting conversations is difficult. Yet we know that developing this ability is important to our professional and personal growth. So what is it that a charismatic person knows and does that attracts other people to them in these situations?
Maintain a Pleasant Appearance
Others will make decisions about us based first on what they see. If they are turned off by this first impression, we will have to work to overcome it to build the rapport that is needed for a positive encounter. Some ways that we can be more appealing to others are:
Smile – The look on your face communicates your mood and approachability. If you look as if you don’t want people to talk to you, they won’t take the chance to approach you. Remember, most of the other people in that room are tentative to approach strangers also. So smile, look friendly and happy even if you don’t particularly feel like it.
Dress Appropriate to the Situation – Wearing jeans and a t-shirt to a business function is as off-putting as wearing a suit and tie to a pool party. The proper level of dress will add to your credibility and build your own confidence as you meet others. And whatever the level of dress, make sure that it is clean, pressed and fits properly.
Use Good Hygiene – I realize this is a sensitive subject, and fortunately, most people we meet won’t need to read this. But for those who need to learn this – they REALLY need to learn this! Unfortunately, they probably don’t realize that they should make changes in these areas. Anyway, here are some suggestions. Brush your teeth regularly, especially if you drink a lot of coffee or tea during the day. Perhaps you should use a mint or piece of gum before meeting with others. Cologne and perfume are nice, but you don’t need to bathe in it. Many people are sensitive to strong aromas and too much makes it difficult for them to be around you.
Focus on Others
Don’t you just love people who are interested in you and allow you to talk about yourself? Aren’t you impressed with people who think you are smart and funny and important? Well, those people have charisma, not because they are important, but because they make you feel important. Here are some techniques they use (and you can too):
Be Curious – If you want to meet more people, you need to become curious about him or her. Think to yourself, “I wonder what she does for work?”, or “I wonder what he and I would have in common?” By developing this curiosity about others, it becomes a pull that will drive you into a quality conversation. Further, when you get into these conversations, you will find yourself asking more questions, rather than talking so much about yourself.
Listen – These questions you are asking are not being used just to fill the gap until you can start talking about yourself and what you do. They are asked so you can learn about the other person, their issues and their needs. So after you ask a question, really listen to what the other person is saying. When they finish their answer, ask clarifying questions to get even more information. Really be interested in them and try to discover what they care about.
Build Them Up – As you and your new friend start to build a relationship, you should look for and comment on areas of their story that fascinate or interest you. Show enthusiasm for their business or profession and stay focused on their story and their pursuits. You will be perceived as a pretty sharp person if you recognize how smart and interesting the other person is.
Be the Spark
You would think that when a person goes to all the trouble to attend a networking event, that within a few days they would contact the people they met and continue to build the relationship, or at least solidify the contact. Unfortunately, I find that in over 90% of cases there is no follow-up. All of that time and effort is wasted because the person is either too lazy or too scared to reach out. For this reason (the other persons lack of impetus), you will have to provide the energy to get this relationship moving forward. Here are some ways to do this:
Reach Out – Within 24 hours, you should reach out to all of the people you have met. Since you got their business cards at the event, the contact can either be an email or a phone call, depending on your comfort level. Tell them how much you enjoyed getting to know them (continuing to build them up). If it’s appropriate, also connect on LinkedIn so that you can keep in touch with them over time. I will stress again that this reach out should be done quickly or you will lose the momentum. Contacting them two weeks later feels awkward and fake.
Set the Appointment – Out of those that you meet, there will be two or three where the connection and/or opportunity are strong. In these cases you must make the effort to meet with them and explore the possibilities.
Provide Value – As you meet further with these people, look for opportunities to help them with their goals. In some cases you might be able to personally help them. In others you might provide them with a contact who can be of service to them. Providing value for other people cements the relationship for the long term and makes it easy to contact them in the future if you have a need.
In summary, charismatic people are able to take their eyes off of themselves and become truly interested in others. Follow these suggestions and you will find it easier to meet and build strong, meaningful relationships.