From Overwhelmed to Empowered: Tips for Effective Networking

May 14, 2024

By Haley Bengtson, Perception Coaching LLC, an EFund Expert Network provider

Networking is a key part to doing business locally, but the options can feel overwhelming at first. So, where do you start?

First, identify your intentions. What do you want out of it. Are you looking to increase your visibility in the community? Or maybe you want to connect with someone specific, whether it’s for support or a potential partnership? Once you know your intentions, finding the right networking event becomes easier and more meaningful.

Networking events vary in structure from open networking to niche networking groups. If your intention of networking is to socialize and be visible as an active part of the community, open networking can be a great fit. If you have something important to announce, like a special event or promotion, look for gatherings where you can spread the word to a receptive audience. It’s also worthwhile to seek out niche networking groups, such as ones for women in business, or industry specific groups. These niche groups can often be discovered during broader networking events.

Once you’ve selected your event and identified your goals, it's time to start navigating the crowd. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your next networking experience, whether you're new to the scene, changing your priorities, or looking to expand your circle:

Leave Some Space

When in a group, keep an open physical space for someone to join. Unless your conversation is intended to be private, stand or sit at an angle to the person you are speaking with so that someone can easily integrate into the conversation. This is also a cue to new networkers that they are welcome to fill that open position.

Recognize Signals

Look for “bids” or cues from people who are looking to join the conversation or group. If someone looks like they want to join the conversation make space for that interaction. Networking is all about making connections, so be open to meeting new people. Newcomers tend to naturally make bids when they see an opening. If you see an opportunity, don’t hesitate to step into a conversation, or take an available seat at the table – that's what they're there for!

Get Up to Speed

If you’ve made space and noticed a bid to join the conversation, make sure that those joining the conversation are caught up. Being the person who makes sure that newcomers are not only physically part of things, but also participants in the conversation will help everyone enjoy their time together more.

Pay Attention to Cues

Recognizing bids can guide you in creating space for everyone to contribute to the conversation. Remember, networking is about sharing and giving everyone an opportunity to participate. Bids can range from subtle cues like a simple "Oh!" to more obvious actions like raising a hand. Embrace these bids, as they may lead to valuable suggestions or fresh ideas that could benefit you or your business.

Show Genuine Interest

Be authentically curious! If you want people to be interested in your business, the best way to start that conversation is to ask about theirs. While the depth of business discussion may vary at different events, always be ready to genuinely learn more about others. You’ll find that they’re just as ready to learn about you in return.

With a little bit of intention-setting and some networking know-how, you'll be making meaningful connections in no time. Happy networking!


About the Author

Haley Bengtson is a talent development coach at Perception Coaching LLC in Duluth, MN. She enjoys spending time on the local trails, and helping teams develop a culture of trust and innovation. Perception Coaching LLC helps to develop talent at all organizational levels, and develops and supports internal coaching programs.

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