Gaming the System When Networking

If the thought of an evening spent “networking” makes you uncomfortable, you’re not alone. Despite understanding that networking is about building two-way relationships and that positive intentions (e.g., a willingness to help others) can make it feel more natural, many still struggle with motivating themselves to make meeting new contacts a part of daily life.

While having the right mindset is key, sometimes incorporating internal mind games will enable you to get over the initial hurdle, which means you’re halfway there! Try these mental tricks to overcome some of the most common networking challenges at your next event:

  • Remembering names: This is a tough one for most, primarily because the brain is usually focused on making sure we are making a good first impression during an introduction, which means new names fail to get stored into long-term memory. Next time, make it a goal to introduce each person you meet to at least one other person in the room. Try to do this at least three times at your next event.
  • Meeting new people: While networking is certainly not about how many business cards you collect at an event, face time is the way that most relationships begin. So, it would follow that the more people you can introduce yourself to, the more potential relationships that might be cultivated. At your next event, take on the mentality of one of the hosts, pointing people to the coat check or restrooms, asking people how they learned about the event, introducing people to others, or even helping to sign people in if the organizers are open to assistance. This simple shift will make meeting people much less daunting.
  • Breaking into groups: When I’m at an event where I don’t know anyone, jumping into an existing conversation is the most intimidating part for me (still, after years of networking!). My mantra from the movie “We Bought a Zoo” is to practice 20 seconds of courage. Walking up to a table and simply asking, “Can I join you?” has never failed me, however, I need that 20 second mental boost to work up the courage to do it!
  • Following up: This is the place where most networking falls apart. Recently, Dr. Ivan Misner was on my SiriusXM radio show (catch the episode here) and had a great formula to tackle this called 24-7-30. Within 24 hours, send your new contact a note. Within 7 days, connect on social media, and within 30 days, schedule a 1-to-1 meeting (via phone is fine). You likely won’t make a meaningful connection with everyone you meet at an event, but aim to find at least 2 people you’d like to learn more about.

If these strategies seem a little transactional and contrived, you’re right. They are tactics to get you started and to build your comfort with the goal that over time, they’ll become more natural and relational.  The right mindset will always win out over mind games, however, sometimes tactics help us to get there.

The benefits of building a strong network are endless and well backed by research. And authenticity is core to building trusting relationships. So, do yourself this favor: find a strategy that works for you. It will not only help you, but will likely help others in the process.

Happy hunting!

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