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Leave the Awkward at the Door with These In-Person Networking Tips
There was once a time when people found jobs through ads in newspaper classifieds, but that time has long since passed. In the present day about 70% of jobs are found through personal connections.

So whether you’re searching for a new job, or looking for new clients, solid networking skills are key. Unfortunately, to many people networking can feel more awkward than a middle school dance.

This guide may not make face-to-face networking less awkward than hiding behind a screen, but it sure can help you navigate your next event or meeting with poise.

Have clear goals

“Who do I want to meet and why?” This is vital to ask yourself before any networking event. Many event’s will have a list of attendees available. Scan this list and determine which connections will be more meaningful to your future or the future of your company.

Come prepared with relevant conversation starters

Whether a big group or a single person, the approach can be intimidating. With the right approach you can start your own conversation or smoothly join an existing one. Read up on industry-relevant news and trends to help you connect with your audience.

Introduce yourself to a big-deal person, as an equal

Why do we become nervous or awkward when we see celebrities— even mini-celebs like a CEO you admire? Because we put them on a pedestal. Approach industry celebrities as an equal, not a fan. Try mentioning something thought-provoking that they can relate to.

Be interested in others

Ask people questions about themselves. It’s simple to exchange names, hometowns, and job titles, but small talk is… small. Make the person you’re talking to the main topic of conversation to avoid awkward silences. If they mention a project they’re working on, for instance, ask them to tell you more about it. Showing real interest in others typically says more about you than talking about yourself does.

The conversation should benefit all parties involved

In asking for what you want (such as a job or investor), be sure to mention the mutual benefits— otherwise risk coming across as aggressive. Do not just ask for a job, explain why you are the right person for the job. “What are your core business problems? Here’s how I would fix them.”

Your exit should be graceful

Sometimes it may seem like it, but networking is not speed-dating. Your goal is not to meet as many people as you can, your goal is to make valuable connections. It is very important not to rush through conversations for this reason. When your chatting does seem to dwindle, end with a “I’d love to hear how that project turns out.” You’ll come off as engaged and keep it feeling open-ended. You never know who you’ll need guidance from in the future.
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