The idea of networking is something that brings many people out in a cold sweat. However confident we are, it takes us out of our comfort zone and is particularly tricky for women who are often entering a male-dominated room.
But a new study by Loughborough University and Imago Venues has revealed the most and least effective ways to do it.
Conversation analysts Professor Elizabeth Stokoe and Dr Magnus Hamann observed how people behave and communicate in networking spaces. Based on the findings of the study, they identified several research-based tips to enable people to network better.
– Know where to place yourself in the room
Start a conversation in the food/drink queue, at a standing table, or a sitting table.
– Put your coffee cup on a table
If networking makes you nervous, arrive early. Get a drink and place your cup on a standing table. It invites others to place their own cups on the table and start talking.
– Join the conversation
To join the conversation, you need to become part of what ‘gesture specialist’ Adam Kendon calls an ‘interactional circle’ – a circle of people who are already networking. A good way of joining the circle is to position yourself in direct line of sight of the people who you want to interact with. They are then likely to realign the circle and welcome you in.
– Don’t be a mis-greeter
Don’t say hello to someone and then look over their shoulder for the ‘more important’ people in the room.
Head of marketing & PR, Weather Factory
“Events are a big part of the industry and can be daunting to many, but if it helps, remember that almost everyone is in the same boat. My main tips for attendees would be first to not worry about going to everything. You won’t miss out by not attending every event.
Second, sometimes smaller events can be as fruitful for business as larger ones. Use social media/groups to reach out prior if you feel nervous about going solo and want to meet others. Finally, remember that even if you’re going on behalf of a company, you’re representing your own brand as well.”
Studio recruiter, Digit Game Studios
“The idea of networking can be somewhat daunting to many, especially in an unfamiliar environment, but done right it can be extremely rewarding – personally and professionally!
My top tips are first to set yourself goals – even a small one of ‘introduce yourself to two new people’, and build from there. Then, research: know who you would like to speak with and why. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, be yourself, and try to relax. Finally, make sure to follow up within a week with the people you have met.”
CEO, Ansible PR
“My top networking tip is don’t try to ‘work the room’. Your goal shouldn’t be to just shake everyone’s hand with little interaction. Start by asking yourself why it’s valuable you attend – opportunity to do business, find a new job, meet interesting people? Researching in advance who might be there (social channels and event websites are great places to start) and letting people know why you will be there will lead to more meaningful and friendly conversations.”