Don’t be a phony

Take a moment to reflect on who you are when networking. Do you remain your true self when networking and in business situations?

You may not be conscious of it, but we all wear masks in business — whether it’s to impress, influence or be someone else. But we shouldn’t; we need to be ourselves. People connect on a deeper level, an energetic level. 

Have you ever met someone and knew you wanted to know them better? Most of us have, and these gut reactions aren’t just formed because we think they can do something for us. The instant connection is formed because they remind you of someone or something that was good — and this person is bringing those feelings back. If you aren’t being your genuine self, the real you isn’t able to shine through. You can’t make meaningful connections with others if you’re disconnected from the real you.

Being yourself

Being a natural networker means coming to every situation as yourself. Easily said, but putting this into practice takes time. That’s because networking events are in fact, artificial environments: contrived scenarios where strangers are thrown together to get to know one another. In complete contrast, a more authentic situation might be bumping into someone at the supermarket, striking up a conversation and discovering common interests. That’s a genuine encounter. At a formal networking function you act differently than at the supermarket. But with practice you can be comfortable being who you are at all times. Self-talk and relaxation techniques can help. 

Let’s say you are getting ready to go into a networking event. Before you walk through the door, take a moment, in your car or at the entrance to the event — wherever you feel comfortable. Shut your eyes for a moment, and allow yourself to experience whatever you’re feeling. Do you feel tense? Then relax that spot. Do you feel uncomfortable? Understand where that’s coming from. If it’s coming from your unease about going into a room full of strangers, that’s OK. Remember, they don’t know each other either. They are all here for the same reason – to meet you! 

So take a moment and breathe deeply. Remind yourself of your strengths and accomplishments and that the people you are about to meet are excited to get to know you.

Finally, take a moment to think about your intentions for attending this event. Ask yourself who are you there to meet. Visualize people talking to you, exchanging information, making plans to meet in a week. See yourself moving from one conversation to another, smiling, and enjoying your time.

These methods also work if you are going to a business meeting. Think about your intentions. Why do you need to meet these people? What do you have to give them? Who do you know that’s going to make a difference in their business? Who can you refer them to? 

Attracting genuine people 

Like attracts like. Now that you’ve made it a priority to be your genuine self, think about the type of people you’d now like to attract. Chances are you’re looking for the same type of upfront, honest and down-to-earth networkers. 

But first be aware of who you don’t want to attract. You don’t want needy people. Needy people in a networking relationship suck the energy right out of you. You want to network with confident, assured people whose actions and words measure up. Those who, like you, are themselves and comfortable with who they are, whether at a casual social event or a high-visibility business function.

Be conscious when meeting someone for the first time. By being present and in the moment, you also will be aware of how you feel when you are talking to a new person. Don’t be waiting until it’s your turn to talk — be an active listener. Do you feel something as this new acquaintance is speaking to you? Is it positive or negative? Does she spend all the time talking about herself and not asking you any questions? In addition, note her body language. Is she looking you in the eye, or is she scanning the room, ready to move on? Is she responding to what you say or making superficial remarks? Take note of all this – it requires effort but can save you time and misdirected energy. 

Presenting yourself 

While it’s good to be authentic at all times, including networking, that doesn’t mean being unprofessional. Being “natural” should never mean being inappropriate. There is a time and a place for everything.

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