7 Ways to Network Your Way to the Top

By John Corcoran of Smart Business Revolution | @JohnCorcoran

In entrepreneurship, as in life, relationships are king. Without strong relationships, creative entrepreneurs will not get very far.

And when it comes to developing relationships, most entrepreneurs under age 40 recognize that social media today plays a crucial role in developing and nurturing relationships that can help in business.

But any entrepreneur who thinks they can stay behind their computer, holed away at home, relying 100% on social media for networking is fooling themselves. [click to tweet]

In spite of all the popularity of big social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, creative entrepreneurs also need to focus on old-fashioned, face-to-face networking. In today’s day and age, you need to have a strategy for using both social media and face-to-face events for networking.

How Face-to-Face Networking Is Different

Face-to-face networking is very different from social networking, but the principles are the same.

For starters, you should be yourself. And you should be mindful that first impressions matter.  Others will judge you based on how you are dressed, how you introduce yourself and how you describe the work that you do (usually called your elevator pitch).

I recognize that networking at these types of in-person events is more difficult for those who are shy or introverted. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you get a free pass.

Old fashioned, face-to-face networking is simply one of the best activities you can engage in for your career or your business.

However, even if you are introverted, there are things you can do to make face-to-face networking easier on yourself.

Here are seven tips for how creative entrepreneurs can network effectively at old-fashioned, in-person events:

#1 – Have a Positive Attitude.

It is crucial to have a positive attitude going into any networking session, happy hour, cocktail party or conference. If you aren’t happy about coming to the event, then you might as well not go, because showing up without a positive attitude will send a message to everyone else that you are not interested in them.

If you are having trouble summoning a positive attitude, then try this: think about whatever it is that motivates you – more free time, more money, your family, etc.

Remind yourself before you go in that meeting new people at a networking event is one of the best uses of your time to get you more of what you want.

#2 – Dress Appropriately for the Occasion.

The value of wearing the right attire to a networking event cannot be understated, as people will be making snap judgments about you. You should aim to dress 10% better than everyone else in the room.  Be sensitive to the industry so that your attire is appropriate.

#3 – Research Other Attendees in Advance.

Research the people who you may meet at the event well before you arrive.

Find out if the event you are going to will publish a list of who is going to be there. If there is an advance list, you can identify people who are coming and who you want to make a point to speak with at the event. Services like Evite.com and eventbrite.com often publish attendee lists.

#4 – Arrive on Time.

Arriving on time sends a message that you are disciplined, organized and respectful.

In addition, I find that arriving to a partially empty room is easier than arriving to a full room. When you arrive to a room early, you are forced to meet the few other early arrivers. By the time others arrive, you have had time to get comfortable.

#5 – Look People in the Eye and Shake Hands.

Studies have shown that people who look others in the eye are naturally perceived as being more powerful, warm, personable and attractive.

I am always perplexed when I meet someone and their eye contact is fleeting or distracted.  By contrast, when I meet someone who locks eye contact, I immediately have a feeling that this person is warm and engaging.

#6 – Connect with People Over their Families.

Here’s a great “hack” for getting to know someone quickly – ask about their family.

At most networking events, people talk about work-related or industry-related subjects. That’s what everyone else does, but you don’t need to do that. You can really distinguish yourself by asking about a person’s spouse or family, if you get the right opportunity.

Most people love talking about their families and will let down their guard if given the opportunity to talk about their spouse and/or kids. Also, it gives you a chance to find out how you can be helpful or useful to their family members, which will make you incredibly memorable.

#7 – If You Are Shy or Introverted, Focus on Others.

I get asked a lot about what advice I have for people who really hate networking because they are shy or introverted. If you are really shy and don’t like meeting new people, then the best advice I can give you is that the best conversationalists often don’t talk much at all.

People love talking about themselves, and if you ask a lot of questions and take a lot of interest in them, you will come across as a good conversationalist. Most people will enjoy the opportunity to speak about themselves to a captive audience.  And they will enjoy speaking with you.

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founder of smartbusinessrevolution.comJohn Corcoran is an attorney, former Clinton White House Writer, and blogger at SmartBusinessRevolution.com, where he writes about how to network in business. To find out more techniques for building your business network, check out John’s free, 50+ page eBook: How to Create Your Own Personal Networking Plan.