By Jeff Beals
Nelson Mandela’s memorial service provided the backdrop for what may have been the largest gathering of powerful people in world history. Approximately 100 heads of state from all corners of the globe attended the historical event. The number of presidents, kings and prime ministers at Mandela’s service exceeded the 70 heads of state who attended Pope John Paul II’s funeral in 2005, which was then considered the biggest concentration of power in world history.
While the dignitaries were in South Africa to mourn and pay their respects to the one of history’s most transformational leaders, the event was also one heck of a networking opportunity.
Just think about the decisions that were made, the relationships that were strengthened and the business that was accomplished when a hundred world leaders came together in one venue shaking hands, making small talk and bringing up important issues face-to-face.
While you and I will probably never attend a networking event of such gravity, we do find ourselves milling among crowds of people who could potentially become our customers, recommend us or send opportunities our way. Networking events are not only important opportunities, they are moments of truth. During these fleeting moments of time, we must perform properly in order to reach our goals.
Here are some networking rules to keep in mind whether you’re hobnobbing with world leaders, rubbing shoulders with movers-and-shakers or simply mingling with prospective clients:
Start with a Purpose
Focus on results when networking. When you go to networking events, go with a goal in mind. Sure, you should try to enjoy the social aspects of your conversations, but make it your mission to meet new people, find a good lead and learn about a golden opportunity.
A Positive Face
When participating in any networking event, bring a positive attitude even if you don’t want to be there. People with energy and enthusiasm are more attractive to fellow networkers.
While you never know who could provide you with opportunities or valuable information, make your networking efficient by seeking out people in your target audience. Spend the preponderance of your time with people who can help you reach your goals in the shortest period of time.
It’s about them. No matter how much they might deny it, the truth is that people really care most about themselves. Listen twice as much as you talk when interacting with any one person at a networking event.
The better you become at interpersonal communication the more you’ll realize how lousy the rest of us are at it! Try not to become too frustrated when your discussion partners aren’t as skilled at networking as you are.
Ultimately, networking should lead to some tangible benefit. You can push professional relationships forward in part by asking questions. Ask things that lead people down a path to your ultimate goal. You may find benefit in preparing questions ahead of time and rehearsing in your mind how you might ask such questions.
You should leave discussion partners with an item of value but this is nothing you can see, taste or touch. It’s intangible – something like a joke, piece of trivia or a bit of interesting insider information. These intangible leave-behinds make you and your message more memorable.
Observe the Masters
If you are shy or awkward in professional networking situations, you can improve by observing the masters, those people who are naturally gifted at making small talk, working the room and connecting people. Emulate what they do well and you may eventually become a master yourself.
Those powerful world leaders consorting in Johannesburg have mastered networking and know how to use interpersonal situations to advance their agendas. After all, it’s highly unlikely anyone could attain such professional heights without well-developed networking skills. Make a commitment to network more and remember to do it deliberately with a purpose. Consistently hobnobbing over a long period of time will increase your public profile, connect you with the right people and help you become that person who always seems to know about business and political happenings long before your colleagues do.
Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. You can learn more and follow his “Beals Motivation Blog” at www.JeffBeals.com.
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