One of the best ways for entrepreneurs to socialize with colleagues, customers and potential clients is at networking events. Corporate gatherings, conferences, happy hours and cocktail parties provide an opportunity for you to meet new people and reconnect with old acquaintances.
However, if you have difficulty mingling in a room full of strangers, connecting with other professionals can be a difficult and uncomfortable process. Regardless of how you feel, networking is undeniably an effective way to meet people who can provide new opportunities and help you grow your business.
Many entrepreneurs regularly attend networking events, but few study or practice effective networking. The more practiced you become at starting conversations with strangers, the less anxious you’ll be. Your confidence will attract others and help you become much more than just another business card.
To become a master mingler, employ these tips at the next networking event you attend.
Hone your public speaking skills.
Conversations require just as much speaking ability as a presentation. Practice your skills whenever you can. Take a public speaking class or join a Toastmasters club in your area. When you feel prepared, give presentations at industry meetings or offer to give a guest lecture at a local community college or university.
Start with a handshake.
The type of handshake you extend to a stranger speaks volumes about you and your intentions. When you approach someone new at a networking event, start your conversation with a firm handshake. As you greet the individual, make eye contact, smile, extend your hand and introduce yourself. This nonverbal communication will help you build rapport before you even say a word.