Networking is a way of life for some people. For others, it is a chore.
Depending on your profession or involvement in your community, attending various parties and events may be required. If this isn't something you enjoy, your lack of enthusiasm may be noticed by other people and could work against you.
The first key to being an effective networker is to look like you're enjoying yourself! Get up out of your chair, or pull yourself away from the wall, put a smile on your face, and go shake some hands.
It can feel very awkward to be in a gathering of strangers. One way to overcome this is to tell yourself they won't be strangers for long.
Walk around the event and see if there are opportunities to engage anyone in conversation. Odds are there are others attending alone who would love to speak to someone.
One of the easiest places to meet people is at the food table or the bar. You can always ask a question or make a positive comment to begin a dialogue. After a few exchanges, go ahead and introduce yourself.
Let your introduction lead you further into conversation. You may know some of the same people, do business with the same companies, or your children may attend the same school, or you may be in the same classes.
But you won't discover any of this if you don't introduce yourself.
If shyness or a lack of confidence has taken charge, make a game of meeting new people. Pick a number of people you want to meet at a certain event. Let's say five people. Once you've met five new people, you have permission to leave if you want. Remember to congratulate yourself for achieving your goal.
While at the bar or after you've visited the food table, you begin a conversation with someone. But out of the corner of your eye, you notice another person standing alone near you. When the conversation leads to a question or a pause for you to comment, toss it to the new person.
Make eye contact with him or her, and say something like, "Let's get another opinion," or "What do you think about . . ." This will pull that person into your conversation and allow you to repeat the process you used to meet the first person you were talking to. After a few exchanges, introduce yourselves and continue the conversation between the three of you.
This works even easier when you see someone you know. A simple "hello" is all it takes to pull that person over and you can immediately introduce him or her to the person you were first speaking with.
However, if you see someone you know, or with whom you want to speak, and you don't want to include the person you are currently conversing with, be courteous and find someone new for your present conversation partner.
Pull in another person, make introductions, then excuse yourself with something pleasant like, "I'll let you two continue this conversation. Please excuse me, I'll catch up with you in a little while."
Now you're free to roam and mingle with anyone else.
Networking is only as effective as you make it. You're bound to meet some really nice people at gatherings and events, and depending on the nature of the event, you will want to follow up in a few days.
Call or send an email to say you enjoyed meeting them. Mention something in your conversation that pertains to a current event, or information you've come across. If it was mentioned you should meet again, make it happen.
With your new acquaintances permission, join them on social media. This is an easy way to stay in touch and continue to find common ground.
Make networking fun and not only will you enjoy it more, you'll help other people enjoy it, too!