As an entrepreneur, or anyone in business, you are always faced with the constant proof that it’s all about networking, networking, and more networking! Now although networking can be such an asset to your business it is sometimes seen as a bit of a shlep – especially if you’re not used to being outside of your comfort zone.
Over the past two months, we have been traveling all throughout South East Asia and this has forced me to operate way out of my comfort zone, all of the time! We’ve attended several entrepreneur meet-ups in each city we’ve visited. These events ranged from casual dinners, to pitch parties, or even just meeting up at a coffee shop to work together for the day. In addition to these we have also stayed with other couples to spend time with local residents, made new business connections with fellow travellers, and even followed up with those we met in one city who happened to be in the same place on another leg of our journey. Going to meet ups and seeking out other entrepreneurs requires you to really get over the awkwardness of meeting new people. It also forces you to get over the fear of putting yourself out there, which opens up so many new opportunities that you never even thought were possible.
Now living the traveler’s lifestyle can be fun, adventurous, and there is such a richness of culture to experience. However, if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that no place is as great as it can be if you don’t make meaningful connections with others who are walking a similar path in life as you. Without these relationships, your adventures can become empty with nothing to tie your memories back to. A place is, more often than not, only as great as the people you share it with.
So if meeting new people isn’t second nature for you, how do you get to that point where meeting new people is a natural occurrence? How can you make those connections that can build you up, without that constant feeling of being the ‘new kid on the block’?
From moving cities and continents several times, attending multiple universities, changing jobs and industries, to now living a full-time traveler’s lifestyle, I have put my diverse amounts experiences to the test and have created this list of the 12 Must-Do’s that I believe will make you great at meeting new people.
1. THE HANDSHAKE
Make it strong and energetic. Not a limp fish! Now this doesn’t matter if you are a man or a women – take your stand and make your handshake just as bold. This shows your professionalism and engagement to the meeting. During the handshake, instead of focusing on saying your name, really listen for theirs and repeat it back to them. This way you will be sure to remember it, saving you from having to ask for it again later! Use this as the perfect opportunity to say something right off the bat! Jump into the introduction to open up for the other ‘newcomers’ in the group. Those first introductory words often require the most courage, so by taking the leap you are helping out everyone in the conversation circle – which everyone will be grateful for.
2. BREAK THE ICE
Yes this sounds cliché, and often turns us off from the whole ‘meeting new people’ thing, but it’s a tried and true formula to get things going! Now, you don’t need to say anything too over the top. Simply comment on the venue, food, topic, speaker, or whatever comes to mind. It doesn’t have to be profound – just something to relax the atmosphere and shift the focus. You may also start by expressing interest in why they have attended, where they come from, or where they are off to next. Don’t forget to make it interesting! An example of a great opener would be: “What’s giving you energy these days?” This ice-breaker also opens the floor for them to talk, allowing you to take the role of listener so that you are not hijacking the conversation. This leads us straight into our next point.
3. BE A BETTER LISTENER
This is such a key quality to exhibit, especially if you truly want to get the most out of your encounter. This is where you should focus on the relationship rather than the transaction. Make the other person feel important and that you really care about what they are saying. Be genuine and truly focus on what they are saying, not what you need to say next. Repeat back to them, in your own words, what they’ve said to allow them to fill in the gaps that you may have missed and elaborate on their passions or other topics of interest.
4. MAKE IT ABOUT THEM
Weaving in from being a better listener, definitely make the conversation about them. Ditch the sales pitch! Keep it fun, simple, and light in order to put you both at ease and drown out any fears or hesitations you may have had to begin with. Make them feel special and important. Say their name when responding to questions or making comments to show that you are truly focused on exactly what they are saying, and that you recognize who is saying it. Open up your world view – instead of forcing your ideas on them, try to find ways to see if from their perspective to allow yourself a greater overall experience. This also shows that you respect their views, and they will be grateful for your true interest.
5. FIND A MUTUAL INTEREST
This gives you a common interest and makes you more excited to have made the connection. One of the main reasons people want to continue interacting with you or grow the relationship is because they feel that they have something in common with you. We always hear, “Opposites attract”, but in fact we are more likely to seek out and spend time with those who are similar to ourselves. Now, if you can find a second commonality and you can relate to them on two domains, this will make it even more likely that both of you would want to stay connected or even build a great friendship in the future. Starting with the similarities opens up the door for you to build the relationship on a strong foundation, which will eventually enable you to celebrate your individuality and unique differences as well.
6. BE MORE INQUISITIVE
Genuine curiosity and intrigue are very helpful assets to have when meeting new people. By asking open-ended questions you allow the other party to elaborate on exactly what they have to share. This also prevents the conversation from dead-ending with a simple “yes” or “no” answer. It is also important to speak up when you have something on your mind. This fosters curiosity and invites each participant to think about their own views and what they might like to share. Don’t forget to start with the easy questions first – but remember, no one ever said easy had to be boring. Make those questions interesting! Interesting questions really make you think, and often brings on a joy from hearing the question for the first time. This is a great way to stimulate the interaction and foster a great conversation in the making.
7. EYE CONTACT
Your body language is one of the most important aspects of yourself when you meet someone for the first time. This tells the other participant exactly how you’re feeling, even if you’re not saying anything at all, and it starts all the way form the first hand-shake. Make a point of it to ensuring that they feel welcome by looking them in the eyes as they present themselves to you. Individuals who keeping a constant eye contact are automatically perceived as more honest and better listeners. This also shows them that you are truly interested in what they have to say, and that you are in fact paying attention to the conversation at hand. Shifting your eyes away constantly shows that you are looking for an escape route, which is very distracting and can be seen as an insult. Remember, body language includes several aspects, such as stance, head gestures, and even the position of your arms. A tall stance shows confidence, head nods shows approval, and arms by your sides show a welcoming invitation to continue the conversation. So pay attention to the signals you are giving off, and don’t forget to read their responses as well.
There’s nothing quite as power or as simple as a smile. My mom always says, “Friendliness doesn’t cost you a thing!” And she is so right! A smile is such an easy way to invite someone in and make them feel at ease. It makes you warm and inviting, and definitely more approachable. This allows you to be much more accessible, especially in a situation where everyone is new! Positivity attracts positivity, and when you look like you’re having a good time, others are sure to want to join you. Check your negative attitude at the door, and if you’re having a bad day, know yourself. Would it make you feel better to be around other people, or worse? Perhaps, if you are having a bad day, a different approach to take is to see who you can be cheering up at the event. Remember, no matter how bad your day has been, there is always someone who’s had it worse!
The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer up someone else.
9. BE YOURSELF
Authenticity goes a long way. People are drawn to your genuine qualities because it makes you exactly who you are. Being yourself also allows others to see that you are human, just like them. During the “first impressions” time it is so key to be consistent in order to best represent yourself, your brand, and your company. It is much easier to be exactly who you are than it is trying to constantly keep up with an appearance of someone you are not. Just be nice! Being nice is a great way to make an authentic connection. Don’t worry about being memorable or well put together – we aren’t perfect, and that would take way too much work! This also shows that you are not just having the same polished conversation as you’ve had with everyone else. It is genuine and authentic.
10. GIVE FREELY
When we hear ‘networking’ we often think of a time where you are only building connections to get something out of it in the end. Instead, check that attitude at the door, and focus rather on building the relationship than assessing it’s worth. Perhaps you can offer to help where ever possible without expecting anything in return. Introduce them to someone else who can be beneficial to their endeavours, and maybe even lead them into a new opportunity. Sincere interest and even flattery can also be seen as a form of generosity. Making other people feel good about themselves or helping them to be successful will go a long way when building strong, lasting relationships.
11. GET INVOLVED
Often times we find it hard to attend new events, especially when you don’t have any one to go with. This is a great opportunity for you to get involved. By joining the organizing team or volunteering to help set up, you are automatically integrating yourself much better into the event overall and are sure to get connected a lot faster. I can’t even count the amount of times where I’ve signed up for volunteer opportunities by myself just to get out, meet new people, and make a difference along the way. And every single time I have had the most amazing experiences that I wouldn’t trade for the world! So I encourage you to find new opportunities to network. Sign up for volunteer opportunities, become part of the team, find new meetups, and use those connections to introduce you to other networking opportunities as you go.
12. FOLLOW UP
The best relationships are grown from repeated interaction. So following up with someone is not only Since this step is so often overlooked, you will stand out! One simple Email or phonetical could be just what they needed to feel like they’ve made a difference in your life. They will be positively impressed by your professionalism and follow through. This is also a great opportunity to solidify the relationship by establishing another meet-up. You never know what the relationship could entail, so don’t judge the encounter by one single event. Make the effort to reconnect and find out more about their experiences, and perhaps find out what they are like outside of the awkward first impressions zone. You may be pleasantly surprised!
So remember, when entering into an environment where everyone is new, bare in mind that they are probably just as nervous about meeting new people as you are. You may even say that, “you are in the same boat”. They will only think about the weirdness for a split second, then the focus will be shifted to the conversation itself. Once the connection is established there are only new things to discover, amazing friendships to be created, and business opportunities in the making.
You never know who you might meet, so take the chance and get out there more often! Networking is great for your personal and business growth and can change your life for the better!
Now I’d love to hear from YOU!
- 1. Did you enjoy these 12 points? What are some others ways that you use to be better at meeting new people?
- 2. Loved this post? Share it, and spread it all over. You never know who you might help along the way!
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As always, desire to inspire!
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