You’ve been following the advice on all of those fabulous blogs and career sites and have finally committed yourself to a routine of attending networking events every month. Fantastic!
But at every networking event you go to, she’s there. She’s the one who walks into the event room and immediately makes an impact. She’s the one who never looks intimidated or hesitant. She’s the one who walks out with the business cards of the major decision-makers in the room.
How does she do it? What are her secrets? And, most importantly, where can you learn what she knows?
Many professionals are daunted by networking events. The thought of walking up to a total stranger, introducing yourself, and projecting confidence can seem so overwhelming it’ll make you want to hit “delete” every time you receive an event invitation in your inbox. But once you step over your fears and learn the secrets to projecting confidence and class at networking events, you, too, can get noticed and make a huge impact as soon as you walk into the room.
Here are some common reasons why people don’t get noticed at networking events—and easy solutions to boost your networking prowess.
Reason #1: You’re Not Dressing for Impact (or With Confidence)
Like it or not, how you look is often the first thing others notice about you. Within a few seconds of walking into the networking event room, other attendees will have formed an opinion about you just by looking at what you’re wearing.
The lesson? Quite often, we’re tempted to choose a basic, professional outfit—one that not only feels like “work,” but also makes us blend right into the crowd. But if you want to make an impact as soon as you walk into the room, it’s important to make your outfit work for you.
Instead of throwing on your everyday suit, think about what can give you a little extra pop—and confidence. Do you look great in red? Throw on a bold crimson blazer. Have a statement necklace that you love? Wear that. A crisp dress shirt with French cuffs? Perfect. It seems simple, but what you wear can have a huge impact on how you feel and how you come across to others.
Reason #2: You’re Not Making Eye Contact
Imagine you’re having a conversation with somebody at a networking event. While you’re telling him about your fabulous week away in Mexico, he’s looking at the ground, in his glass, or over your shoulder. You probably get the immediate feeling he isn’t at all interested in what you’re saying—and you certainly won’t walk away with a positive impression of him.
Fact is, to connect with another person, you need to look him or her in the eye. It’s tempting and really easy to avoid eye contact if you’re nervous. But if you don’t create that minimum amount of eye contact in conversations, the other person won’t be able to read you (or, more likely, will misread you). Instead of sending the message that you’re nervous, lack of eye contact can easily send the message that you’re untrustworthy or uninterested in the conversation—obviously something you want to avoid if you’re aiming to give a positive first impression.
Make sure that when you’re in a conversation, that you’re actually in the conversation. Show interest and connect with the other person by maintaining eye contact. If you feel a bit awkward staring into someone else’s eyes, try this little trick: Draw an imaginary inverted triangle on the other person’s face around their eyes and mouth. During the conversation, change your gaze every five to 10 seconds from one point on the triangle to another. This will make you look interested and engrossed in the conversation.
And remember: Don’t get so caught up in looking like you’re paying attention to forget to actually pay attention! Listen to what your networking partner is saying, and don’t forget to react. Even just a nod of interest every once and a while can make a huge difference.
Reason #3: Your Body Language Isn’t Saying “Powerful”
In a study done by New York University, researchers found that when you meet somebody for the first time, it takes only seven seconds for the other person to decide things such as: Are you someone to approach or to avoid? Are you trustworthy, competent, and confident? Do you have status and authority?
So, you can bet that, at networking events, other people will be looking for answers to these questions in your outfit, your eye contact, and your body language. The most common red flag I see at networking events is closed body language. It’s all too common for people to take up as little space as possible, slouching a bit, folding their arms, and lowering their gaze. If you’re nervous, these gestures might make you feel a little more reassured and safe, but to others they’ll make you look uncertain and not open to being approached.
Confident and powerful body language stems from good posture. So, as you’re walking into an event, hold your head high, push your shoulders back, and keep your rib cage up. This posture makes you look fearless—and taller, which helps you project a sense of authority.
And remember, leaders are never indecisive. So don’t mill around in the networking room—walk assuredly from group to group as you work your way around the crowd.
Reason #4: Your Voice Projects Insecurity
Nerves tend to bring out the worst in us, and that’s especially true when it comes to communication. I often hear people using upswing—the vocal rising at the end of a sentence that makes your statement sound more like a question (and, again, projects that feeling of uncertainty in yourself). Another common mistake that can detract from your professional image is filling your sentences with the word “like.”
Networking stars speak with purpose and certainty. They know what they’re going to say and they’re not afraid to say it. They lower the tone of their voice just enough to command attention but not too much they sound like they’re reprimanding the other person. And they aren’t afraid to pause in between sentences. A small pause of two seconds can add so much punch to your ideas and thoughts.
Make an effort to push your voice down at the end of a statement to eliminate the upswing. Replace the word “like” with more polished vocabulary, such as, “for example.” Or, better yet, follow Sara McCord’s tips to eradicate it from your workplace vocabulary forever. When you sound more confident, you’ll find that other people will react with much more interest and esteem for your thoughts and opinions. A confident voice is the finishing touch to your confident, powerful image.
Getting noticed at networking events isn’t rocket science, and what “she” knows, you can learn. Use these solutions to project confidence—and pretty soon, I bet you’ll feel it, too.