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How to Make a Lasting First Impression at Your Next Networking Event

Thu, 16 November 2017

This blog is part of Shell LiveWIRE’s 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Week activities aimed at celebrating innovation and young entrepreneurs.
Whether you’re looking to make new connections or seeking new opportunities, networking events are a fantastic way to create valuable contacts and to make a great first impression of you and your business.
They can, however, be overwhelming. After all, approaching and introducing yourself to a bunch of strangers is no easy task!

Preparing beforehand can help to make the experience less daunting and more worthwhile for you and your business. In this blog post, we’ve gathered six different ways you can prepare for your next networking opportunity and ensure you leave a positive and lasting first impression. 
Have a goal
Before you think about attending a networking event, it’s important to know what your overall goal or strategy will be. Think about why you’d like to go, what type of people will be attending, and how you will benefit from those potential connections. If possible, try to find the event guest list and highlight a few contacts you’d like to make through the event.
Plan in advance
Once you’ve identified a potential new contact, do your homework. Find out more about who you’re meeting and what they are passionate about. Prepare some talking points and try to find a common ground; you may find that you have a mutual connection, attended the same university, or even read a similar book – these small details will help the conversation to flow and will make the networking experience a lot less daunting!
Know your strengths
While it’s important to know what you’d like to gain from your new contacts, it’s just as beneficial to understand what your strengths are and how you can use these to your advantage. When it comes to talking about yourself, make sure you can highlight your positive attributes. Think about the question “who am I and what is my value?”. Consider your skillset, knowledge and connections and what opportunities you can bring to potential new contacts. 
Remember to smile
When meeting someone for the first time, what you don’t say matters just as much as what you do say. Don’t forget about nonverbal communication. Make sure you greet people with a smile, a firm handshake, and introduce yourself with confidence. Maintain eye contact and remember to repeat your contact’s name in conversation as this small but effective gesture will be sure to leave a lasting positive impression.
Engage and listen
Networking is a two-way street, and therefore it is just as important to engage and listen to what your contact has to say. After you’ve introduced yourself, turn the attention to your contact, listen carefully and show you’re fully engaged in what they’re saying. Demonstrate genuine interest by asking thoughtful, open-ended questions, such as “What are you looking forward to?” or “What are you currently working on?”. Showing effective listening skills and a willingness to learn more about the other person will go a long way.
Follow up
Finally, don’t forget to follow up with your new contact through LinkedIn, email or a phone call and let them know how valuable you found the conversation. A personalised message will show dedication and your enthusiasm, so try to reflect on what you found most interesting from your meeting, and the reasons why. Showing that you’ve taken the time to reflect on your encounter will be appreciated by your new contact and will ensure that your great first impression really sticks. 

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