Networking is not just about ferociously distributing business cards and 'working the room'. There is a distinct method to effective networking that can help you build essential contacts, make new industry friends and promote your personal brand.
1.) Create a strategy
Networking, like anything should be tackled with a well thought out strategy, defined goals and a considered approach. Decide what you want to get out of a networking event. Do you want to meet industry friends, promote your own agenda or learn more about a sector? Once you've narrowed down your approach you can make appropriate moves towards getting the most out of the networking process.
2.) Listen don't just talk
Everyone knows someone who they have to avoid in the break room because they don't let anyone else get a word in edge ways.
No one likes this guy, don't be this guy. Instead of forcing information down other people's throat try to join groups that are already engaged in meaningful and productive conversations. Listening to people speak can often provide you with very valuable insight and understanding. Demonstrate that you are listening by displaying neutral body language, making eye-contact and nodding, smiling and reacting to what the person is saying. Really take in what you hear, ask them to elaborate on points you don't understand and pace yourself when responding.
3.) Ask meaningful questions
Whilst listening is key, it doesn't serve you to be a total mute just nodding and smiling occasionally through the entire networking event. Put together some valuable questions that will help you with your goal for the networking session. If you want to push your own agenda, ask people about theirs, strike up meaningful conversations about topics you want to bring awareness to. If you want to meet people be up front " I am trying to develop my network in the sector and came to this event hoping to connect with some new industry friends, what brings you here?".
4.) The art of mirroring
The art of mirroring is all about copying the body language of the person you are speaking to. It creates a greater sense of understanding and likability. It also helps them feel listened to and valued. This is a great way to endear a potential client, contact or influencer.
5.) Be punctual
Turn up on time or a little bit early so you can scope out the room. There is nothing worse than arriving late and having to stumble through the event in haphazard fashion trying to find your feet and latch on to existing conversations. When you arrive early you can start the conversations assess who is who and meet more people as they come in.