If you’re a seasoned networker, you can leverage your experience to engage in a few win-win activities to help first-timers feel welcome, establish yourself as a generous and hospitable professional and reap the many benefits of networking.
Networking is second nature to the seasoned networker, while newcomers can easily feel overwhelmed by all the information and action happening at professional business networking events. Newcomers don’t necessarily know how things work at that particular event, don’t know if there are rules or what they are, and certainly haven’t yet pinned down the personality of the event or group. It can be awkward not knowing anyone and feeling like everyone has a place in their own little clique. Everyone except them.
Newcomers often feel like a fish out water. You may see them meandering around or standing by themselves. They may seem apprehensive to approach strangers, don’t feel comfortable breaking into a group, and might prefer listening to conversations happening around them.
Here are 6 Simple Activities To Make the Newcomer’s Experience a Good One, get the most out of your own networking experience and be a major hero.
- Approach and Introduce Yourself – By introducing yourself, you’re making a friendly, warm first impression. Shake their hand and ask them if this is their first time to this event. Give an overview of the event’s structure to make them feel more comfortable. Ask about their line of work to gain insight as to their business and networking goals.
- Make Them Feel Welcome – Put yourself in their shoes for a moment and recall how you felt as a networking rookie. Share a personal story about your first networking experiences and offer advice to help them get the most out of this business networking group in particular. Tailor your advice based on what you already learned about them. Take a genuine interest in their business. Reassure them that these events will soon feel like second nature and share the success you’ve had with the group. All of this helps break the ice and makes them feel welcomed and supported.
- Ask How You Can Help – Great business relationships are built on acts of generosity and offerings to help and support others. Ask how you can help them at this time. Maybe they would benefit from an introduction to your web designer or a print company. Follow through on any help they need, or connect them with someone who may be better equipped. Being helpful works toward establishing a more meaningful connection and they’ll remember your hospitality. Down the road, they’ll most likely return the favor and be able to help you.
- Ask The Type of Person They Want To Meet – Ask questions to better understand who would make an outstanding referral partner for them and who can further their business strategy. We can’t assume we know who or what help they need. Having the information eliminates much of the guesswork and allows you to be most productive in lending a hand. This leads nicely into our next activity.
- Facilitate Introductions During and After the Event – Newcomers might be apprehensive about approaching and introducing themselves to strangers at events. Take what you learned about them and look around the room to see which introductions would be appropriate. Think also about who’s in your rolodex that you can introduce after the event. Taking someone under your wing and facilitating introductions makes the process much less daunting for them, while you become a leader who’s willing to lend a helping hand.
- Follow Up After the Event – An important part of networking is following up to continue building the relationship. You never know when you may need that person in the future and vice versa. Be sure to exchange contact information with the first-time guest and follow up with them after the event, invite them to the next event, and keep them in the loop on any relevant or helpful new information and invite them to do the same.
Becoming the unofficial welcoming committee and approaching newcomers is truly a win-win scenario that helps both the newcomer and seasoned networker achieve more meaningful business connections, and get so much more out of professional networking events. The newcomer feels more comfortable and supported, gains more from their networking experience and expands their circle while you, the seasoned networker, stand out from the crowd as a generous professional, lending a helping hand. Everyone wins.
Is something missing? What would you add to this list to help the first-time networker feel more comfortable and get acclimated quickly?
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