Making a great first impression at a business networking event is arguably one of the most important things you can do for your career. But why is networking so valuable anyway and how do you do it?
In this brief guide, we’ll break down a few key reasons why networking is so valuable and we’ll also give you our tips for making the best first impression at any networking event.
If you want to make a positive first impression that will stick in people’s minds, keep reading to learn more.
Why is Networking So Valuable?
Let us first explore why networking is so essential in the first place. There are many reasons, but here are the top 3:
- Contacts: This is the most obvious advantage of putting yourself out there and networking. You give yourself the chance to expand your professional and personal network. Hence the name. With every new contact you make through networking, you potentially gain a future client, lead, partner, coworker, employee, client, or mentor.
- Knowledge and experience: The more people you meet, the more experienced and knowledgeable you’ll become. When you meet someone new, you have the opportunity to learn something you didn’t know before. It could be a new skill or valuable advice and a new perspective on your craft or the professional world.
- Exposure: Networking allows you to do some personal brand exposure. When you start building a reputation for yourself and making your presence known at several public events, people will want to know more about you after possibly hearing about you in passing. With the right amount of reiteration and a pool of new contacts you made from networking, you could become a local celebrity.
Making the Best First Impression
According to numerous studies, we form a first impression within a tenth of a second of meeting someone; that isn’t a lot of time. The way you interact with someone during those first crucial few minutes could determine how they think of you in the future.
It is essential to make that first impression as positive as possible because someone’s first impression of you will also guide the rest of your future interactions with that person.
1. Dress to Impress
It is important that for whatever type of business networking event you attend, you dress to impress and dress appropriately. If the networking event is a loosely casual event, wear business casual attire. If the networking event is more formal, dress in your best clothes.
Whatever you wear, make sure it fits well. You could wear a designer dress or suit and if it’s ill-fitting, it can look cheap. Tailor your outfits for the best impression possible.
Wear something captivating enough that you stand out in the crowd—but not to the point you look out of place or draw too much attention. It could be a hard balance to get right, even for fashion experts, but if you want to make the best impression from the beginning, keep this tip in mind.
2. Groom Yourself
Yes, this tip is one of the more obvious ones, but people sometimes forget to groom themselves for important business networking events. If you have the chance, get a haircut or your hair styled earlier in the day. Make sure any facial hair is trimmed and neat. Also, do your best to smell nice for the event.
3. Arrive On Time
Attending a business networking event is your opportunity to socialize with other people. Of course, punctuality is essential but it is also important that you time your entrance appropriately.
Arriving too early to the event when nobody’s around can be awkward and while arriving too late will leave a negative impression before people even have a chance to meet you.
4. Be Aware of Your Body Language
Your body language is key to making a killer first impression. Keep a good posture with your shoulders back and your back straight and your chin parallel to the ground. Doing these things will help you appear more confident. Crossing your arms can come across as a bit standoffish; if you want to appear more approachable, try an open stance, and open your arms.
5. Make Eye Contact
Master the art of eye contact. Making and keeping eye contact with someone makes building a connection easier. When you maintain eye contact, you show the other person that you’re paying attention to what they’re saying and that you care.
Be careful with prolonged eye contact. Prolonged eye contact can seem less “natural” and it can make people feel uncomfortable.
6. Give A Good Handshake
The power of a good handshake is more important than most people realize. There is a lot of depth to the psychology of a handshake (read about it here). You can never go wrong with the “classic” firm, two-pump handshake. A good handshake is one of the best ways to cement a great impression and reputation with someone new.
7. Be Present
Burying yourself in your phone or getting distracted by something else in the room can leave people with a negative first impression of you. It is important to keep your focus on whoever you are interacting with for the duration of that interaction.
Acting distracted may come off as rude to someone else because it looks like you have more important things to attend to, and you risk losing potential meaningful business connections.
8. Converse Wisely
Studies have shown that when it comes to first impressions, people respond to trustworthiness more than confidence. So keep in mind during your next networking event to prioritize presenting yourself as a trustworthy person rather than projecting confidence.
Avoid dominating conversations or using big words unnaturally. Nobody wants to talk to someone who is just going to go on and on babbling about themselves for the entire time. Remember to show an interest in others, ask thoughtful questions, be polite, and let the conversation flow naturally.
Making the Best Impression at Any Networking Event
There’s no use in attending a networking event if all you do is check your phone or check what refreshments are available and not actually speaking to anyone. Now that you know why networking is so valuable as well as how to make a great first impression at any business networking event, we hope you have the confidence to work the room at your next work event.
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