By Marino Fresch, marketing director, Ireland and the UK at Eventbrite
Networking; many people see it as a necessary evil in the business world, but for some it can be difficult to master.
Networking connects people, sparks new ideas, forges new partnerships, and makes an event worth attending. Sounds great. However, the problem with networking is that it can be, well, awkward. If you’ve ever turned up to a gathering as a ‘newbie’ or first-timer, you’ll know the feeling of hovering by the doorway, not knowing who to approach or where to begin.
At Eventbrite, we recently delved into the psychology of networking and identified a couple of scientific insights that can help you make the most of networking situations.
For example: Offering something useful, such as advice, fits with what is known as ‘Social Exchange Theory.’ This theory suggests we connect with people based on what they can offer us while weighing up possible disadvantages.
Networking connects people, sparks new ideas, forges new partnerships, and makes an event worth attending…
At networking events, a good course of action is to not mind standing out from the crowd, and to march over to begin making friends and influencing people.
Some people wonder ‘how do I start a conversation?’ and think that they need to be entertaining to engage someone. In reality you just need to find a common interest.
The art of starting an engaging conversation is about asking questions, listening to what the other person is saying, and then offering personal experience or advice that is of value to the person you are talking to.
While networking isn’t something that can be taught, here are eight simple tips rooted in behavioural science that can help you be more successful at it:
- Icebreakers: The easiest way to start networking at an event is to not over-think it. Just ask the person next to you a simple question: how are you finding the event? No one wants to be the first to break the ice. If you take the initiative, people will almost always respond warmly and positively.
- Mingling: Successful mingling begins with a single connection. Start a conversation with one person, go for tea, and then introduce yourself and them to another person. Repeat.
- Give: Making connections at an event is about giving first and receiving second: ask questions, listen to what’s going on with the person, offer personal experience or advice.
- Listen: You don’t need to have a speech prepared; networking is 80% asking, listening and empathising.
- Mirror: Matching and mirroring the body language, tone of voice or words can make people feel more comfortable.
- Smile: Smile and be positive; people are attracted to that.
- Breathe: Be present and be mindful: take a deep breath and relax into the moment.
- Believe: Networking with successful professionals can seem intimidating. Stop negative thoughts by mentally listing skills and accomplishments.