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If there’s one word that’s pretty much guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of small business owners, freelancers, and entrepreneurs across the world, it’s “networking.” This is the kind of thing people will do just about anything to have to avoid doing, and that’s kind of understandable. After all, making conversation with people you don’t know can be difficult and awkward at the very best of times, without also having the sense that you’re both trying to get something out of each other hanging over your head the entire time. However, networking is still one of the most important parts of running any kind of business, so it’s about time you learned how to do it! Here are a few tips that can turn you into a networking expert!
Make a good first impressions
The most important part of any networking opportunity is the first impression. If you’re not able to make a good first impression then not only is someone going to be less likely to engage with what you say, they may not want to talk to you at all. Not only should you shake anyone you meet firmly by the hand and introduce yourself confidently, but something like a folding business card is a great way to make an impression that’s going to stick with someone. Just don’t make it seem like you’re trying too hard or else you’ll make people feel uncomfortable.
Keep things light
Speaking of trying too hard, avoid treating any networking opportunity like some kind of life or death situation. The truth is that the best way to network is to keep the conversation light and not force the issue too much. Sure, talk about your business or your profession and try to generate contacts as best you can, but if people feel like you’re just sniffing around trying to figure out what you can get from them, then they’re going to be a lot less interested in talking to you than if you engage them like an actual person.
Eye contact is one of those things that can be surprisingly difficult. It seems so simple, but the act of making eye contact with someone can be a serious challenge. Sadly, it’s a challenge that can only ever be overcome with practice. Talk to the people in your life and focus on making eye contact wherever you can. Looking someone in the eyes while they’re talking to you shows that you’re engaged and interested and is going to make you instantly stand out from the crowd of people mumbling to their shoes or into their coffee cup. Of course, it’s possible to go too far. Look into people’s eyes, just don’t stare!
Of course, this doesn’t mean that networking is suddenly going to stop being awkward or turn you into some kind of extrovert who loves nothing more than talking to people at events and parties. However, it will make networking much easier and prevent it from being something that you would rather hide from than deal with under any circumstances.