By Niki Tudge
“More business decisions occur over lunch and dinner than any other time, yet no MBA courses are given on the subject.” – Peter Drucker
Networking is an effective way to spread your value through those around you. Understanding the basic mechanics of networking will increase your success in delivering the right message about yourself to others. In this post, I will cover how to create an effective introduction and how to make a great first impression.
Creating an Effective Introduction
Most people form an opinion about you during the first two minutes of your conversation. Because of this, you may only have a few minutes with the person you are meeting to share with them who you are and what you do. That is why an effective introduction is necessary when networking. Using the MEETS technique to introduce yourself can create a good and lasting impression:
- Make eye contact
- Emit a smile
- Engage in a handshake
- Tell them your name
- Share what you do or whom you work for
Using these steps will ensure that your introduction gets your message across without taking too much time. Avoid talking too much at the beginning. Allow the other person to introduce themselves. You should engage the person you are meeting by asking for their information. Short, effective introductions help to send a positive message about you.
Your goal is to introduce yourself and share some relevant information about what you do in 30 seconds. Practice your introduction as if it were a short speech, until you are comfortable with it. The more practice you have, the more comfortable you will be when it comes time to introduce yourself to others for the first time.
Making a Great First Impression
It is easier than you might think to make a great first impression; sometimes, trying too hard could give you the opposite results. To make a great first impression, focus on the other person rather than on yourself. You want to make the other person feel important and worth meeting.
In order to do this, use the Five B’s:
- Be on time: when you are on time, you demonstrate to the other person that you care about their time and value them.
- Be yourself: when you are yourself, you come across sincere and show you want to build an honest relationship with the person.
- Be positive: when you are positive you create an inviting environment. When you have a negative attitude, people will want to drift away from you.
- Be courteous: when you are polite and courteous, people will remember this aspect and create a lasting positive impression.
- Be brief: when you are talking, avoiding taking too much time. Being too talkative may be seen as a negative trait and this could hurt your first impression.
Show you value the other person’s time and thoughts by actively listening to them. Make the interaction less about you and more about the other person and you will make a great first impression.
Networking is an effective way to spread your value through those around you. Understanding the basic mechanics of networking will increase your success in delivering the right message about yourself to others. In this chapter, you will learn how to do the following:
- Minimize nervousness
- Use business cards effectively
- Remember names
Nervousness arises from fear of the unknown. Being a little nervous when making new acquaintances is normal, but extreme nervousness can result in an uncomfortable experience for both you and the people you are meeting. If the signs of your nervousness are visible (excessive sweating, heavy breathing, twitching, etc.), they may view your nerves as a negative trait and move on to the next person. Controlling your nerves is therefore an important aspect of successful networking.
Here are five quick steps to help reduce nervousness:
- Prepare for the event. The more prepared you are, the less nervous you will be. Gather as much data about the event as possible and create a plan. Avoid putting yourself in situations that will cause you to scramble at the last moment.
- Think positively before and throughout the event. Avoid thinking negative thoughts or imagining worse-case scenarios. This type of thinking will only increase your nervousness.
- Practice what you are going to say and do. This is a common technique for reducing fear in public speaking, which are similar to networking events.
- When at the event, focus on the present. Avoid thinking ahead. Make small goals that you want to achieve at the event. Thinking about outcomes that could occur because of the event could result in unneeded stress.
- Finally, remember to breathe deeply and monitor your physical reaction to the situation. Take breaks and refresh.
Using Business Cards Effectively
Business cards are an important element of networking. The goal of this lesson is to make the best use of your business card. Business cards have many uses beyond specific networking events and conveying basic contact information. The last few years have seen the rise of digital business cards, sometimes referred to as e-business cards. These are cards you can create on your smartphone and send out using a QR code. Most professionals always carry their phone, so your e-business card is always on hand and always ready to send. Here are eight ways to increase the effectiveness of your business cards:
- Always keep business cards on you, even when you are on your personal time. This will enable you to give someone your card when an unexpected meeting occurs.
- Always carry your business cards in a special holder. This will keep them neat and presentable at all times.
- Take advantage of bulletin boards at restaurants and other public areas where they allow the placement of business cards.
- Whenever you have to use a piece of scrap paper, use the back of your business card. This way the person receiving the card (even if they are not the intended party) will take it with them and keep it. This could lead to him or her giving it to someone else in the future.
- Put something useful on the back of your business card. Consider using your mission statement or an inspirational quote.
- Always include a business card in all your correspondences. This will give the recipient something to put in their wallets.
- Get business cards for all employees of your business or department.
- Always give a business card to every new person you meet, even if they are not your intended audience.
Your business cards are an effective tool for networking. Make them interesting and give them out whenever possible.
When you are meeting people, it will be important for you to remember names correctly. Although many people commonly forget names, remembering them will make you memorable.
Use the CARE model to help you remember names better:
- Commit to remember names: making a conscious effort to remember names will make this a priority when meeting people. You may need to write this down as a goal. Later in this workshop, we will learn how to make SMART goals.
- Associate names to other things and events: when meeting someone new, try to associate that person’s name with the event or place where you met them. Doing so begins the memorizing process.
- Repeat their names: throughout your conversation with the new person, repeat their name as much as possible without being too obvious. Make sure you use their name when you say goodbye.
- Engage yourself in the conversation: when a person introduces themselves and says their name, become engaged in the conversation, focus on learning about them, and focus on learning their name using the techniques discussed previously. Avoid thinking about what you are going to say next or about other things in general. Remained focused and you will remember names better.
About the Author
Niki Tudge MBA PCBC-A CABC CDBC is the founder and president of the Pet Professional Guild, DogNostics Education and The DogSmith. She has substantial leadership experience in business management and administration, particularly in the nonprofit sector, which encompasses her role as the president of Doggone Safe, a nonprofit educational organization. She has published numerous articles, which have been featured in publications such as the New York Times. She has also authored five books; her most recent project, Pet Training and Behavior Consulting: A Model for Raising the bar to Protect Professionals, Pets and Their People, which she co-authored, was published in 2019.
Before following her passion into small business and nonprofit management, she enjoyed a distinguished career in the hospitality industry, holding executive positions all over the world. Her real passion in her corporate role was the identification and development of female talent in the workplace. She enjoyed managing and coaching her team through both their personal and professional development and loved watching the process of female empowerment and growth at a high level of management.
Along with her business degrees from Oxford Brookes University in the U.K., her professional credentials include ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer and she is Six Sigma Black Belt Certified, specializing in data analysis and process improvement. She is also an International Training Board (HCITB) certified people trainer at levels TS1, TS2 & TS3 and a certified facilitator and project manager. In addition, she was recognized for her outstanding contribution to the business community and honored with a Fortune 500 Company Leadership Award for her accomplishments.