We all know they're coming. The dreaded or exciting cocktail networking hour! Depending on where you find yourself on the Myers-Briggs scale, you either avoid these events like avian flu or countdown the minutes until you're holding a drink in one hand (non-alcoholic with ice is best--no one wants to hear a sloppy, slurry sales pitch) and your business card in the other.
And if you're the former, you may tend to leave these events for the moment when you absolutely must attend because you're desperate for new clients or new business. Whether you are extremely shy or overly confident, how do you prep in advance? These 5 tips will help you sip and say with ease, so you leave feeling accomplished in just under an hour.
1. Swagger - check your attitude before entry. Shirk the day's burdens, complaints and hassles. Take a deep breath, let in some fresh air, and go for it! Scope where you're going and walk there with confidence (even if you don't feel it yet). The feeling of confidence almost always catches up to our actions and not the other way around.
2. Sip - once you're inside, take in your surroundings. Observe the crowd and consider your competition--YOU! You're the only one standing in the way of something wonderful. Prep yourself. Get out of your own way by focusing on who you are and what makes you uniquely indispensable. No matter who else is in the room, there's no need to compare! Highlight in your mind a list of your strengths and above average offerings. Then get ready to make use of your arsenal of knowledge, skills and talents.
3. Shake - the right hands in the room. Find the folks with whom there's alignment and singularity of purpose. Whose goals connect with yours, whose values and vision align closely with your own? Know before you go: the name of the person(s), their company. Then consider the gaps--the space between their strengths and their weaknesses. Now you can speak confidently about what you do with a "by the way" mention of a skill you possess that you know would fill a void for them. Be careful to refrain from brashly pointing where you think they fall short. You catch more flies with honey. Speak in terms of how you're looking for opportunities to help/support an organization, startup or company whose needs align with your skill set. (A much nicer way of saying, "Hey! I really think you could use my help!")
4. Steady - now that you've got your footing, settle into your niche in the conversation (it's not only about what you know, it's important to ask the right questions so you learn what you don’t). Listen. Ask. Find the opportunities where you might develop and deepen your craft and capture best practices.
5. Set-up - make appointments and prepare for your next move. Don't leave without a game plan for follow-up. Be clear and specific about when you'll reconnect, what you and the other person expect, where you'll meet (in person or by phone) and how you'll potentially move forward TOGETHER.