Networking depends on the skills to make a positive first impression and then build a relationship from there. The world of investment can be something of a jungle, but unlike our prehistoric ancestors, we no longer need to forge strong connections for our physical survival. Rather, the innate drive that human beings have evolved can help us navigate the modern savannas of the networking event.
Let me share some tips to help as you launch into your next networking event.
Using the invisible microphone
Meeting strangers in a formal setting intending to make connections is a form of public speaking. You may not be behind a podium facing an audience of finance professionals and investors, but you perform a similar role. In both instances, you present yourself or your ideas/opportunities and seek peer endorsement and validation.
A good way to make a strong first impression with an important group is with what I call the microphone technique. When introducing yourself, imagine standing on a stage (or on a live podcast or radio show) with a microphone. This mental exercise helps in two ways: first, you are likely to speak in concise sentences with a better selection of words, and second, your voice and cadence will sound more measured. You will be surprised to see how employing this technique purposefully can instantly prime your audience to tune into what you have to say.
This is my name
Our professional environments and social circles are becoming increasingly diverse. Shifting attitudes towards culture and identity in recent years means a growing number of people from diverse backgrounds are choosing not to anglicise their names in our predominantly English-language-driven workplaces. People like to hear their names or at least see peers make an effort to spell or pronounce them correctly. It helps affirm their existence and reinforces their sense of self. By proactively asking a person to help you with the pronunciation of their unfamiliar or challenging name can be the simplest yet most powerful way to show respect and establish a positive association.
Pausing for effect
Which movie scenes or speeches do you remember most vividly? Would you describe them as powerful? Watch them again; you will notice that their impact is often down to the well-timed pauses in their delivery. Pausing before and after important ideas helps to create emphasis and significance. This not only allows listeners to absorb the message more intently but it also makes the speaker appear more confident and powerful.
Talking with your hands
When addressing a small group or an audience, allow your hands to complement your spoken communication. Hands indicate intention. Using them effectively and purposefully can help establish trust and credibility with your peers.
Why is this? An analysis of TED talks revealed that the most viral speakers used an average of nearly 465 hand gestures. The least popular speakers used half as many. Even with the sound off, speeches with more hand gestures received higher scores regarding trustworthiness and charisma from test volunteers than those with fewer gestures. In another study, researchers found that using hand gestures increased the value of the spoken message by sixty percent. Combining verbal and nonverbal cues will help your listeners process what you say and be able to recall it later.
Listening with your eyes
Positive first impressions and interactions do not consist of confident verbal and non-verbal speech alone. Constructive engagement in small groups, like those in networking events, also depends on your ability to listen effectively. At Toastmasters International, we emphasise the need to develop listening skills as much as speaking skills.
To establish a connection with your group, it’s important that you listen not just with your ears but your eyes too. This means active and attentive visual listening by paying close attention to the person you want to build a rapport with. Making eye contact with them, observing their posture, facial expressions, and body language will help you gain insights into their intentions and emotions. This also reflects authenticity and sincerity on your part.
Providing something memorable
Events like networking require repetitive and seemingly mundane exchange of basic information such as names, vocations and interests. In professional settings, people often baulk at the idea of saying anything unusual or adding ‘colourful’ details when introducing themselves. But these elements are exactly what can make you stand out, appear instantaneously interesting and leave your peers with something to remember you by long after you’ve met them. The key is to do it skillfully and within context.
For example, Steve Jobs once introduced himself at a commencement speech by saying “he had never graduated from college.” Businessman Richard Branson once greeted a gathering with, “Hi, I’m Richard Branson, and I once dressed up as a female flight attendant on one of my airlines just to entertain the passengers and fulfil a bet.” And this is how tennis ace Steffi Graf once opened a conversation: “I’m Steffi Graf, and my backhand is so fierce that it has its own fan club.”
Incorporating humorous facts, surprising statements, or a professional anecdote into your introduction can be a powerful tool to create a positive and memorable impression. Whether new connections lead to immediate opportunities or not, they will likely remember you as authentic, relatable and unique.
It may be a cliché, but it is advice that many of us are often afraid to follow. The fear of breaking ranks with prevalent opinions and conventions keeps people from being themselves. We admire mavericks, yet we adhere to conventions for fear of rejection or criticism from peers, colleagues and family. While being authentic can be a double-edged sword, it can serve as a highly useful filter to attract the right kind of allies and like-minded professionals.
As part of a Family Office, networking will likely be an important part of your life. I hope you’ll find these approaches useful as you make an impression and build relationships at your next networking events.
About the author
Nishtha Chugh is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. More than 400 clubs and 10,000 members are in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org