In this blog post we asked Ana Devdariani, alumna, head of communications at IDEON and the moderator of our networking workshop, to share her best advice on networking and creating meaningful connections.
Any time you meet a new person, you are networking. If we look at it this way, turns out that the life itself is networking – relationship building, and it takes time and mutual engagement.
Networking is about investing yourself in building lasting relationships. The aim is not meeting every single person in the room, but instead truly connecting with the few you meet. When I arrive at a social event – be it a big conference, an office mingle or a dinner party, I apply the same approach.
1. Walk to your event!
If I attend a gathering after a long workday, I make sure to shake the day off before I arrive at the venue. I either walk or ride a bicycle instead of driving. Being physically active produces happier hormones in the body and makes us feel confident.
2. Arrive earlier!
I arrive a little bit earlier than expected. Human body experiences slight stress and confusion in unfamiliar settings. So I use these extra minutes to look around and get used to the environment.
Sometimes I do power posing – I stand with legs shoulder width apart and lift my hands up for 2-3 minutes. This technique changes the hormonal flow in the body and minimises cortisol which is a stress hormone.
3. Remember names and faces!
Once I’ve made sure that my head is clear and my body is calm, I greet the host and start introducing myself to other people. More often than not, I meet a group of people at the same time, and this makes it harder to remember the names. So I create vivid associations with people’s names and faces.
If someone is called Adam, I imagine them in Eden’s garden, or I think of my friend Adam and make a mental connection with him. Next time I meet Adam, vivid associations awaken in my brain, and the name comes naturally. As for the face, I choose a facial feature and exaggerate it. Maybe his eyes can be big apples from the garden. All of this sounds bizarre, and it’s meant to because the human brain loves vivid images and associations.
If you meet several people simultaneously, take your time to remember each of them. Show that you respect all of them and want to invest your time. As you walk away, you can make notes to make remembering even easier.
4. Be original!
You are interesting if you are genuinely interested. Even if it is a work-related gathering, you do not have to talk about daily mundane tasks. “So, what do you work with?”- They have already answered this a dozen times. This question does not show your effort. You can be original and profession at the same time. Try asking – “What motivated you to study/work in this sphere?” You are still asking a professional question but showing interest in the person and their passion and drive. Remember, networking is about building a relationship, not about learning a person’s resume!
5. Give compliments!
Complimenting someone in a professional setting is just as appropriate as greeting them. Avoid commenting on people’s physical appearance and clothes. Make a compliment about their character. If someone asks an original question, you can tell them: “I appreciate the way you asked that question, it shows that you are a thoughtful person!” People’s actions say something about them, feel free to point out their characteristics and compliment on their personality.
6. Keep in touch!
You want to invest your time in each person. But avoid chatting with only one person the whole evening. Move on by asking them for their contact details and wishing them to meet other interesting people at the gathering. Once you have the contact information, follow up. If you didn’t feel comfortable about giving a compliment, this is the time to do it. Besides, feel free to make yourself useful and send them some relevant information – may be a link to an interesting article or an upcoming event. You may not want to follow up with everyone, and this is natural. If you don’t want to have coffee with a person who suggested it – be honest about it. Making a promise and breaking it is a big nono while networking.
First positive impressions are powerful and maintaining them are equally so. Stay in touch with people you meet, be genuine and useful and with time it won’t even feel like networking.