First impressions are important. People make judgements about you in as little as 20 seconds. Studies have shown that first impressions, particularly in person are dominated by gut feelings. Some traits we can control (handshake, smile, eye contact, etc.) and others we cannot. But what about after those 20 seconds are up? After all, networking events are longer than 20 seconds and there are lots of opportunities to meet new people. What happens when you need to cement your good impression and build on the simple things? Here are some tips to make an A+ first impression.
Put down your phone. We get it. You’re at an event, you meet new people, you want to check in, tag, take selfies, and show the world you’re a boss lady! But be strategic when capturing that content! Living in the moment is important, and when making connections for real and not just for show, you want to be authentic. If you're all about your phone, it may look like you're all about you and the people you meet may get the impression you're not interested in a meaningful connection. Capture the social content you need and save to your phone to be posted later. That way you can be present for the people you are meeting AND be thoughtful in what you're posting after the event to give the event organizers well-deserved public kudos!
Listen more than you talk. When diving into networking it can be easy to think “what’s in it for me?” Try to shake off that mentality and reframe your thinking to be “what’s in it for us?” People can tell when you’re waiting for your turn to speak and not truly listening. A good listener is a good contact to have, be that person for the people you meet, and they’ll be more likely to be that person for you.
Make the newbies feel welcome. If you’re a seasoned networker, you may have forgotten what it’s like to be the new kid on the block. Take care to welcome new people into your circle. Your graciousness won’t go unnoticed, and people like to do business with people who are kind.
Ask questions. If the conversation comes to a halt, ask people about themselves. It’s so easy to fall back on talking about yourself, but networking is all about give and take, and showing people you’re not a one trick pony is a good thing! Plus, allowing people to talk about themselves is a great way to make people feel comfortable with you!
Mirror tone and pace. If you can’t get a read on someone, when in doubt, mirror their tone and pace. It’s customer service 101 and it can help you in networking too. If someone’s relaxed and friendly, be relaxed and friendly. If someone is professional and fast-paced, be professional and fast paced. Being yourself is always a winning choice, but if you ever feel lost, you can’t go wrong with the pace and tone trick. The exception being of course if someone is negative, no need to multiply that energy.
What about you? What are the things you notice most when you first meet someone?