By Huda Baak
“Sit up straight. Don’t talk with your mouth full. Make sure you’re wearing clean underwear”. If these statements sound familiar, it’s because they were drilled into our heads from a very young age. Perhaps Mom was onto something! Nothing shows instant confidence like proper posture, no one wants to eat across the table from someone spewing food while they talk, and as for the third one, well… let’s say you just never want to be caught unprepared!
I’m not sure what Mom would have to say about networking in this day and age, but I can tell you that things aren’t like they used to be. If you’re re-entering the professional world after a few years away, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that things are not quite the same as they were when you left. Everything is faster, social media now rules, and people don’t have the time or the patience for hand-holding.
I remember when I first re-started my business after taking off some time when my daughter was born, that I “wasn’t in Kansas anymore”, (not that I had ever been to Kansas, but you know what I mean!) Things had changed so much. I had spent 15 years teaching people how to network, how to dress for networking events, what to eat, what to say and how, etc. I was shocked at how much things had changed that many people have chosen to work behind the screen now. On their LinkedIn, their FaceBook, Tweeting this and that, but not really connecting with anyone, not in person.
Yes, this is the age of social media, but don’t let go of time tested face-to-face networking. People aren’t hiring your skills and expertise alone, they’re hiring the whole person. A three-dimensional, living, breathing person. So how do you show up to network? Do you scramble to put together an outfit at the last minute, or do you carefully select one based on the job/sale you’re hoping to get?
Questions to ask yourself before you head out to your next networking event
- Is your hair cut & color flattering for your face?
- Are your eyeglasses flattering or distracting?
- Have you had your makeup updated in the past 5 years?
- Do you have a dynamite outfit that looks amazing on you?
- Are your clothes free from pet hair, dandruff or lint?
- Are your shoes in great shape or scuffed?
- Is your handbag contemporary?
- Are your business cards up to date and in a card carrying case?
These answers will help you get started on your physical appearance. It’s not only how you look, of course, but how you present yourself. I’ve always said it’s not just how you package, but how you present yourself that creates a strong one-two punch.
Once you’re at the event:
- Set an intention or goal before you leave your home or office.
- Make sure your breath smells fresh.
- Eat before you go. You’re not there to eat, you’re there to network!
- Make sure your elevator pitch is ready and that you can you recite it fluently.
- Circulate, don’t stick to people you already know until you meet enough new people.
- See who’s at the event and make the effort to meet people you don’t already know.
If you feel the need for a prop, hold a drink. Just make sure it’s in your left hand, so that your right hand is free to shake hands, and you won’t end up having to wipe away the moisture from the glass before shaking someone’s hand. If you’re uncomfortable meeting new people, ask the host or someone you know to make the initial introduction.
The bottom line is this: Networking is an excellent way to get your name out there and to meet people who can help you succeed in your business, regardless whether you’re in sales or looking for a job. So relax, have fun, and remember to focus on your goal and your nervous energy should subside. This is one time you can forget about Mom’s advice about not talking to strangers. Afterall, strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet!
About the Author
Huda Baak has first-hand experience in the topics on which she speaks. She grew up among ambassadors and international business executives from around the globe. She has a multi-cultural background and is multi-lingual, having lived and worked throughout the Middle East, Europe, Canada and now the U.S.
She is an award-winning image consultant, and served on the Boards of Directors for the National Speakers Association and the Association of Image Consultants International. She has spoken before thousands of professionals, and has appeared on numerous radio and television business talk shows in the San Francisco Bay Area. She can be reached at www.HudaBaak.com
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