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How to master networking: Fake it until you make it

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“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to step outside your comfort zone”

On Wednesday 23rd March Nicola Broomham, Director of Estate Agency at deverellsmith, hosted an internal event where she spoke about how to make the most out of networking opportunities. She gave us some great tips to use whilst attending events, ranging from body language and how to make a valuable first impression.

She opened the session by highlighting the importance of planning before heading to the event. Thinking of 3-5 people who you would like to talk to beforehand is beneficial and will help you not feel overwhelmed by a room full of people.

A great tip she gave was to do a bit of research on those people, as it is easier to guide a conversation when you know more about them than they do about you. This can be done with a simple LinkedIn or Facebook search. Think about what you want to know, and who you would like to build relationships with, and make sure you are talking to them.

If you are nervous before hand, and are new to networking, think about who can be your ‘comfort client’, and start by talking to them. This could be a client that you know and already have an existing relationship with, to help ease you into the event.

Nicola also suggested to keep in mind what the aim of the event is. Are you going to win clients? Create stronger relationships with your already clients? Learn more about the industry and market? Or get contact information that you don’t already have? It is great to have a think about your aims and write them down to give yourself the best chance at getting all the information and knowledge you need walking away from the event.

Another important point was to think about the follow up. Make sure that you plan how you would like to get in touch with clients after the event, being sure to continue the conversation and increasing the chance of them working with you and the business. Nicola stated that a phone call is much more effective, asking them how they are and mention something you may have spoken about at the event e.g., mention their team’s football scores. Anything that shows you remember them will help to build a stronger rapport.

Nicola then made us think about the word that someone thinks of when they describe their first impression of you. Then she made us think about whether we liked that word, and what we would like that word to be in an ideal world. Then how would you make this happen? Be mindful of the outfit you wear, from your jewellery all the way down to what shoes you are wearing. Think about what you look like and whether it represents the word you would like to be remembered as.

Moving on to body language, Nicola said that the most viral TED talks used their hands a lot, the most had 456 hand gestures in just 18 minutes. She gave a great tip to help when you don’t know what to do with your hands, hold a drink or a leaflet so that you can keep your hands in front of you without feeling awkward.

A key to great body language is making eye contact, helping to connect with people from across the room and help you look engaged. She explained that even your standing position, can give off certain impressions to others. Standing with your toe’s inwards can come across as lacking confidence and introverted. So, she suggested trying to stand with your toes forward, opening your body language up more to present yourself as confident and open to conversation.

Arguably the most important part of networking is the conversation, making sure that you aren’t making it all about work, work, work. Nicola suggested asking people questions about themselves rather than finding new things to talk about. She recommended asking questions like, ‘How’s the family?’, ‘What are your interests?’ and ‘What do you do outside of work?’. That way you are building relationships and even friendships to build upon.

Remember, we are all real people and enjoy talking about ourselves and what things we enjoy. Nicola continued with some great conversation starters for if you ever get stuck when approaching someone. Questions like, ‘How was your journey?’, ‘Have you ever been to these events before?’ are great ways to spark up a conversation and can help the conversation flow.

Nicola then continued to talk about further strategies to use regarding conversating. Repeating someone’s name throughout a conversation shows you are engaged and know their name, plus, it helps you remember it too! She also stated that giving people genuine compliments is a great way to be memorable and can also be a great ice breaker.

To finish, Nicola left us with her top tips for networking:

  • Stand by the coffee/queue

  • Do your research on the people you want to talk to

  • Do your research on the speakers and the event

  • Be yourself

  • Don’t put pressure on yourself