Networking events allow you to connect with potential employers, business partners, clients, and industry professionals. However, for many people, these events can evoke a variety of fears related to being rejected, not fitting in, feeling uncertain about what to say, and being uncomfortable with self-promotion.
Overcoming these fears may require you to adjust how you think about networking events. If networking feels too transactional or phony, think about the event as an opportunity to connect with people with whom you may be interested in building a long-term relationship, and try to do so while being your authentic self.
Prioritize the quality of the relationships you develop over the number of people you meet. Look for opportunities to engage in meaningful conversation and exchange ideas with a few individuals, rather than trying to meet as many people as possible.
In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie provides practical suggestions for building positive relationships and effectively communicating with others. What follows are some ways to apply the concepts from the book at networking events.
Show genuine interest in others. Carnegie writes, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Rather than just focusing on what the people you meet can do for you, show interest in their lives, opinions, and feelings, and do it sincerely.
Ask questions about their business or industry experience.
Ask about their personal interests or hobbies.
Express genuine curiosity about their thoughts and opinions.
Smile to make a positive first impression. “A smile says, ‘I like you. You make me happy. I am glad to see you,’” writes Carnegie. When we smile, research shows we are more likely to be greeted with a smile in return.
Offer a heartwarming smile because we can all spot insincere grins.
Have a good time meeting others if you expect the same from them.
Remember the ancient Chinese proverb: A person without a smile must not open a shop.
Be a good listener. Carnegie says, “To be interesting, be interested.” Actively listening to others will allow you to better understand their perspective and build trust.
Give the other person your full attention.
Avoid interruptions or distractions.
Ask questions the other person will enjoy answering.
Talk in terms of the other person’s interests. Build rapport with others by finding common ground and shared interests with individuals you meet.
Share similar industry experiences or goals.
Discuss shared hobbies or volunteer interests.
Find ways to collaborate or work together.
Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely. Finding ways to genuinely compliment and encourage the people you meet can help create a more positive conversation, and may even lead to potential collaboration opportunities.
Compliment their work or ideas.
Encourage their efforts and progress.
Focus on the positive aspects of their ideas or suggestions.
By following these principles, you can improve your networking skills, building stronger, more positive relationships with others. After a networking event, follow up with the people you connected with by sending a personalized email, connecting on LinkedIn, or setting up a coffee or lunch meeting to further discuss potential opportunities or ideas.
Carnegie, D. (1981). How to win friends and influence people. Simon & Schuster.