Networking is hard.
I've messed up many times. I was too tense. Too serious. Too planned.
Then, I decided it was enough.
I started studying the science of networking
I combined the findings with my university background in behavioral studies
I put the lessons into practice to find out what works best.
You find them in the 8 steps below.
They help you become a better networker, no matter how introverted you are. See it as a a little boost of your social skills, after the digital COVID years. 😉
🙌 (1) SHOW THAT YOU ARE APPROACHABLE
Show your hands. Don't put them in your pocket or behind your back. Through evolution, our brains are wired to look for cues that reveal if we can trust others. When people see the palms of your hands, they know that you have nothing to hide.
Stand straight, pull your shoulders back, and relax. With your shoulders forward, you signal that you are anxious. People want to avoid awkward conversations. That's why they are less likely to approach people with anxious body language.
Instead, smile! Show that you are having a good time. Others would like to be part of that energy.
🦶🏻🦶🏻(2) NOTICE THE FEET OF OTHER PEOPLE
When two people are talking, take a look at their feet. Are they pointing towards each other? In that case, it's better to leave them alone for now. It is likely they are in a deep conversation and not open to other people joining.
Instead, when feet are pointing towards other people, they are probably open for people to get into the conversation.
If you find it difficult to approach someone in a crowd, find an easier place, for example, at the end of a buffet. This is the place where people often stand with a plate in their hand, looking for a person to talk to. The perfect opportunity for an opener.
😵💫 (3) DON'T OVERTHINK THE OPENING
These openings can all work well:
"Hello, how are you?"
“Hi, I’m [name].”
"What are you drinking/eating?"
The first line doesn't matter so much. What is most important is your energy. Smiling does most of the job. A genuine smile signals to others that you are having a good time. It demonstrates confidence because it shows you are not worried.
⏭ (4) THE FOLLOW-UP DOESN'T NEED TO BE DEEP
"What brings you here?"
"How do you know [name of host]?"
The follow-up question doesn't need to be deep. The only thing that matters is that it leads to an interesting next question.
📈 (5) ASK BETTER QUESTIONS
Be creative with your questions.
OK: "What type of work do you do?"
Better: "What is your biggest challenge at the moment?"
OK: "What are your hobbies?"
Better: "What does your favorite Saturday look like?"
The OK-questions are more standard. Try to ask questions that they cannot answer on auto-pilot. Make them think about the answer. Be curious and dig deeper into their experiences.
For more high-quality questions, see this article.
🗣️ (6) SPREAD CONVERSATIONAL AMMO
When answering questions, don't give precise answers. Tell more. Give them lots of topics to ask the next questions on spread conversational ammo.
For example, someone asks you what type of work you do.
OK: "I'm a Data Analyst for company X."
Better: "I'm a Data Analyst for company X. What I like most about it is that I can work on different kinds of projects. Every new project is like a new adventure. That's also why enjoy mountain biking — I go to a new place every month."
This answer gives the listener the opportunity to take the conversation in many different directions. Either by sharing his perspective on having variety your work or a personal story on mountain biking in the French Alps.
🤝 (7) FIND COMMONALITIES
In some cases, this is difficult. There are people who have different interests from you. However, you always have the opportunity to find common EMOTIONS.
Imagine you work for a multinational, and you speak to someone who works in a bakery. She may tell you that she enjoys the silent mornings, because it makes her calm. After, you can share that you like the peaceful moment before everyone arrives in the office, so you can work without distractions.
👋 (8) CLOSING
The closing is crucial to a strong connection because that's what many people will remember most (look up the Peak-end rule).
To get towards a closure of the conversation, say you enjoyed talking. Ideally, specify WHAT you enjoyed about the conversation. For example: "I enjoyed learning more about you, especially the story how you set up your business."
Pro tip: to get towards a natural closing, it can help to ask about their plans later that day or week. In that way, the focus of the conversation moves from the present to the future.
2. Say what you are going to do:
Don't lie by saying you need to go to the bathroom. Instead, honestly say what you want to do. For example: "I'd like to meet some more people."
Also, leave your BUT out. Don't say: "I enjoyed talking to you, BUT I'm going to meet more people." This one word takes away all the positivity from the first part of the sentence.
3. Close with connection and high energy
To close the conversation with a connection, see if you can refer to something they said. When the other person mentioned that he will go on a holiday to Mexico, wish him a good trip. In case she says she is hosting an important event, wish her good luck. When the other person made a good joke, you could refer to it. End on high energy, with open body language, eye contact and a genuine smile.
💥 (9) HAVE FUN & REMEMBER THE FOLLOWING QUOTE
Again, don't overthink it. Find a way to make networking fun. Energy is contagious. If you're having fun, people will feel it. When you are interacting with others, remember this quote:
This article originally appeared on www.mindspeaking.com
About Gilbert Eijkelenboom
As a former professional poker player, you’ll find Gilbert Eijkelenboom wherever data and psychology meet. Gilbert spent his career in Data & Analytics and he’s passionate about numbers. But too often, people did not listen to his data insights. And he saw other Data professionals have the same challenge.
Therefore, he founded MindSpeaking — and has trained thousands of Data Analysts & Scientists to communicate better with stakeholders. The result? Higher adoption of data insights, more impact, and increased retention of data talent. In 2020, Gilbert published the bestselling book: People Skills for Analytical Thinkers.