Networking can makes us feel awkward particular if you don’t know anyone else in the room so why do it? At its best networking connects people, it sparks ideas and forges new relationships. It helps us expand our networks. We are each other’s best resource. At a conference we not only learn from the speaker but from each other, our learning never ends so sometimes emails and calls need to wait.
Neuroscience research has shown that conferences that don’t create opportunities for networking are not as successful as those that do. That’s because our brains are built to think about socialising with others. When our brains aren’t focused on cognitive tasks, our brain defaults to social cognition. In other words, at rest, the brain starts making sense about our self and our relationships to others.
Based on the theory above, there are a few simple steps you can take to make your networking more successful…
1. Don’t overthink it – just ask the person nearest to you a simple question like ‘how are you finding the event?’ People generally respond positively to someone taking the initiative as don’t forget many others are feeling as awkward as you. It’s a bit of a cliché but smile and be positive, people are genuinely attracted to that.
2. Mingle – start with one conversation and move on, repeat the same thing. Don’t get ‘stuck’ making conversation with only one person. Politely excuse yourself after a while and move on – ‘it’s been very nice to talk to but would you excuse me?’ Go over and talk to another group and ask if you may join them in their conversation.
3. Be interested – making connections is about giving first and then receiving second so ask questions, find out about the other person, what’s going on for them. Listen, emphasise and offer personal experience or advice.
4. Match and mirror – matching and mirroring the body language, tone of voice or words of someone you are speaking to can make them feel more comfortable.
5. Consider a thank-you note after meeting –it’s always good to end in the right way so let them know you are grateful for their wisdom, insight or help with a particular issue by sending a hard written card.
6. Keep brief notes about your connections – you may want to reach out to someone you meet six months or a year down the line at a conference so it’s a good idea to jot down a few notes on your phone or in hard copy about who you meet at events.
All of our venues have the ability to host events such as these. For intimate receptions, try St Luke’s Chapel – a beautifully restored Gothic Chapel. For larger numbers, the stunning Sheldonian Theatre makes an impressive backdrop or the Examination School inspires guest with it’s high ornate ceilings and wood panelling. After a summer garden party networking event? Give Osler House a go…