How often have you walked into a networking event and felt intimidated by the caliber of people present! You know what to expect and what to do, but how do you get started? Before you can effectively network, you must know how to mingle. And before you can mingle, you need to overcome any barriers that you possess.

Networking events position you to meet the right people and secure referrals. However, before you can network, you must be able to confidently walk into a room and comfortably engage in conversation with a wide range of people. It’s this type of social intelligence that determines the “social-ability” that leads to long-lasting networking connections.

All you need is a strategy! To begin, instill the feeling within yourself that you belong there. This is your most important first step because you MUST project a sense of self-assurance. If you set your expectations properly, select the right type of event, and present yourself professionally and confidently, you will have a better chance of achieving a successful outcome.

Every networking occasion is an opportunity to practice taking interactions to the next level, to become adept at being a people connector or people mover, and to learn how to power schmooze your way to influential people. Most importantly, it is about helping others make connections and attain their goals. How do you accomplish this? By working the room!

You are never not noticed! Keep this in mind as your work the room. When someone notices your confident nature, they oftentimes will find you! Here’s your strategy:

1. Approach with confidence. Confident people always get noticed!

  • Stop briefly after entering the room. Study the room, notice body language positioning, and how people are engaged.
  • Decide which individual or group of people you want to approach. Then, make your approach.
  • Greet with an amiable smile, engaging eye contact, firm handshake, and confident posture.

2. Engage in the conversation. Be prepared with a conversation starter.

  • Use courtesy words to enter a conversation. For example: “May I join you?”
  • Say your name and repeat their name clearly and distinctly.
  • Participate in the conversation and listen carefully when others are talking.

3. Depart leaving a memorable impression. Realize that people remember how things end longer than how they began!

  • Do not just walk away when you decide to move on to another individual or group or when the dynamics of the group changes.
  • Ask for business card(s) at the close of the encounter. Offer your business card only after you have asked for theirs. This protocol demonstrates that you are not self-serving.
  • Make an impressive exit by excusing yourself with a handshake, eye contact, and courteous words. It is the final exchange that is remembered the most, so exit with style and grace and let everyone know that it was a pleasure meeting them.

You are not done! Once you decide to leave the individual or group, move on to another opportunity. Help your connections evolve! This is how the pros network.

Ever Tried to Juggle Hors-d’oeuvres, Beverage, and Handshake in One Move?

You just need another strategy. Handle your beverage and/or hors-d’oeuvres with your left hand as much as possible; keeping your right hand available for handshakes. When handling both a drink and hors d’oeuvres, follow these three easy maneuvers:

  1. Place the cocktail napkin between the ring finger and little finger in the left hand. This technique will allow you to discreetly blot your fingertips (or absorb moisture from the glass) before shaking hands.
  2. Place the cocktail dish on top of the middle finger so that the middle, ring, and little fingers support it. (Be sure to spread your fingers so that they can act as a base for the plate.) The thumb and index finger should be in a pincher position on top of the plate to help stabilize it. This gives you a place for your glass if a table is not available when someone approaches to shake your hand.
  3.  If your beverage is in the right hand when someone approaches, place your glass between your thumb and index finger on top of the plate (pincher style) of your left hand. Shake hands and then return the glass to your right hand.

This might sound tricky, but it works like a charm. You will need to practice the positioning until you are comfortable. Note that the technique’s effectiveness depends on how selective you are with your hors-d’oeuvres. It will work with cocktail plates and most glassware. It will not work with messy dips and sauces; these require table seating!

Bottom line, you are judged on how you look, interact, and connect! Everything about you—what you do and how you do it—is noticed and key to networking success.