First impressions can immediately energize or torpedo your networking opportunities.People will decide about you in a matter of seconds. There are always opportunities to perfect and enhance your presence at networking events, conferences, interviews or parties. Here are seven ways to make a great first impression:
Prepare in advance
Prepare and research before you head out to any event with new people. Plan your objectives for each networking opportunity. Research the company or the group in advance. Find out the group or company objectives, what they do and where they do it. Try to look at the guest or attendee list and research them by way of LinkedIn or Twitter. Identify the group leaders or conference speakers that you wish to meet in advance. Determine who you wish to contact before the conference. Sneak a peak at the agenda for more advance Intel. The more you know ahead of time the better you will be able to meet all the right people at this event. Prepare to make the people and the event the centerpiece of your attention.
Don’t underestimate the physical and visual part of a first impression including dressing professionally and body language. Are you glued to your phone? Are you slumped over with bad posture? Are you smiling? Attire and body language send powerful signals. Be able to make eye contact with people you meet.
Use timing to your advantage at networking events. Figure out in advance the best time to arrive and depart to optimize your networking. If you are interviewing, always arrive on time or slightly early. If you wish to approach and have a good conversation with a speaker, send an email in advance to arrange a time that works for the speaker to chat with you. Otherwise, approach speakers immediately after their speech and not before because they will be less distracted. Use the program agenda to figure out the best networking times.
Your approach will immediately set you apart. If you are at a small gathering or dinner, approach every attendee with a smile, firm handshake and greeting. Always make sure to go around and meet everyone at your table! You can even be the one to suggest that everyone introduce themselves. At a larger event, introduce yourself to the person next to you in line, in the meeting, and at the reception. If you are talking to someone and are approached, be sure to introduce all parties. Make your opening line appropriate to the situation. State your name and ask the other person for their name. Find out where they are from or work.
Showing real interest in another person is the key to connecting with them. You do that by asking questions and by listening. You probably already know something about them depending on the purpose of the event or if you have done your pre-event research. Listen and find your connection points with the people you meet. Get their business card and write down the connection points on the back. Use their name often and they will remember you.
Your positive attitude and interest in other people is critical. Being helpful is the most important thing you can convey. There are opportunities everywhere to be helpful and you find them by connecting with people. Can you introduce the person you met to your college roommate who has the same interest? Can you send the person you just met some information to help their job search? Being helpful will always make you a valuable connection.
Make it Last:
You have worked hard for a great first impression. Now you need to make it last. After the event, tell the people you met that you enjoyed meeting them and the conversation. You can do this by text, email, or tweet. Ask them if they wish to stay connected on LinkedIn or Twitter. Send them a link to a blog article that would be interesting to them.
How do you create a great first impression that will last?