To some people, networking conjures up images of having to go to meetings, events or other functions  that you really don't want to go to, but you have to.  Because how else are you going to pass out 100 business cards under the mistaken belief that is what networking is all about. 

Then at the gathering,  you may find that being relaxed and being yourself is near impossible because the stress that dwells in your imagination.  How do these people do it?

If you were to ask a lot of successful networkers, they will tell you they were once uncomfortable also. But they just kept at it until they got better.  Then they got good and kept at it until it was second nature.  

I am sure your remember going to the mall, or the beach or maybe a school dance with your friends and just watched people.   We didn't know it but when we were people watching, we were actually honing a useful skill.

An experimental psychologist at Harvard University, Nalini Ambady, together with Robert Rosenthal surprisingly found that numbers hardly vary between the impression people made in as little as two seconds of meeting a person and knowing same person for one semester. 

They say you have ten seconds to make that first impression.  People mistakenly think that is from the time you shake hands and say “How do you do?  I'm So-And-So”.   Actually, that was your last three seconds.  They found you were being accessed a good seven seconds as you approached.

If you know what they are accessing and you can work on a proper impression.  During the the first 7 seconds people look for, how you work the room, your attitude or vibe, and your approach. 

Here are a few do's and don’t s.  Some of it is just common sense, some is just human nature, I hope it  helps ease the stress.

Working the room:

  • Appearance, well groomed cleaned and pressed.
  • Relax, if you are still nervous.  People watch for a bit.  Check out the room.  See which people are are doing well.  Make your own observations.  Is there someone there that you would like to speak with.   
  • Do not hand out a card to everyone.  Keep in mind others are watching and it gives the appearance of desperation.
  • Eye contact and interest.
  • Ask questions about the person you are speaking with and Listen! Listen! Listen!
  • No cell Phones.  If you have to take a call or text, please, step out side the room then return after.  Aside from being rude it makes the person feel like they are not important.  Don't be that guy in the corner playing with your blackberry through the whole event or talking over the din.
  • Do not stand alone.  There are other people who may be alone that would readily welcome your introduction. 

Attitude or Vibe:

  • It is how people feel when around you, and a lot is body language. This could be a extensive topic all by itself.
  • First thing is, Smile! Smile! Smile!  It makes you approachable. 
  • Talk to three people without handing them a card or any expectations.  This will take the pressure off and get you into the mix.
  • One of the simplest techniques for body language is to mimic or copy the other person.  Try to keep an open posture as opposed to a defensive posture.

Approach:

  • Don't walk directly up to someone from across the room.  It will put them on the defensive.
  • If you are working the room you will kind of flow right up to them.
  • As you get near, pay attention to the various conversations around you.  Time your approach to and joining into a three way conversation work most of the time.
  • Always think before you you speak.  You have done well to this point.  You want to be remembered for saying something good, not something bad.

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