3 Tips for Being a Great Networker
Creativity is often seen as something tangible like a DIY gone right or beautiful photo snapped, but its legs expand far, far beyond all that. Conversing is one of those areas where its art is always noticed but not always appreciated. You know those people who you walk away from feeling a sense of friendship, even after talking for a few moments? That’s a great conversationalist. We all have it in us, but like any skill, it takes practice to master.
When we chatted with PR executive Jenn Lake, Vice President of Zapwater Communications, this week we learned a thing or two about networking from the master herself. There’s nothing like taking advice straight from someone who practices it every day for a living, so without further ado, here are her practical tips on how to be a better networker.
Networking can be very intimidating, especially for young professionals. In my experience, great conversation comes down to one simple prerequisite – a genuine interest in the other person (e.g. what makes him/her tick, what matters to him/her and what’s going on in the world around him/her).
I’ll never forget a lesson that Oprah Winfrey shared during her final show. She explained, “I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common — they all wanted validation. They want to know, do you hear me? Do you see me? Does what I say mean anything to you?”
Winfrey’s takeaway here is that we all want to feel validated and heard – by stranger, friend or foe. It seems so simple, yet is hard in its execution. I’ve found that these questions are really at the core of meaningful conversations – networking or otherwise.
Beyond that, here are three simple things that you can do to talk to anyone:
#1: Leverage Mutual Connections
Meet new people through a mutual connection, which establishes common ground for the conversation.
#2: Plant Yourself Near the Food or, Better Yet, the Bar
Research shows that people will be more comfortable chatting with you if you’re holding food or a drink in your hands. Science also says that people feel more relaxed if you look at them in their right eye when you’re talking. Strange, but true! Social sciences never ceases to amaze me.
#3: Look Up From Your Phone
If you’re feeling uncomfortable, it’s natural to use your phone as a security blanket, and I am just as guilty as the next person! It’s so easy to check emails, scroll through social media sites and text a friend. Turn off your phone and stay present in the moment. You’ll appear more approachable.
Finally, I never let my first impression be my last. Five-minute conversations do not give you enough insight into the whole individual, and it takes years to realize the full picture.