[caption id="attachment_15633" align="alignleft" width="160"] Carol Arnott Robbins Special to Delaware Business Times[/caption]
Does the thought of walking into a room of strangers make you anxious and cause sweaty palms? Do you feel you need to hug the wall so it doesn't come crashing down?
Well, nobody wants to clasp that clammy handshake so let's address some tips to build confidence and make your networking more relaxed and productive.
Before setting foot in a business-networking environment, plan ahead so you make the most of your time at the event. Identify key players in the sponsoring organization, send an e-mail in advance introducing yourself, and ask for information about the upcoming event.
For example, if the local Chamber of Commerce is hosting, look at the staff directory online to find the membership development team. Let them know you will be a first time attendee and briefly describe your business or organization.
Then determine the type of connections you want to make and ask if they would be willing to introduce you to other attendees where there could be a business fit. Most people want to help. Just ask!
Arrive a few minutes early at the event to review nametags and identify any individuals you might want to meet.
When greeting other individuals use a firm grasp to introduce yourself with full name just the way it appears on your nametag. Allow the other person to introduce themselves and invite them to talk about their company or organization by asking an open-ended question using their business name such as, "It's nice to meet you, Joe. Tell me a little about ABC Widgets."
Be curious and an active listener. Networking conversations should be limited to high-level, meaningful dialogue.
If there is reason to follow up at a later time, exchange business cards and move on. Speaking of business cards, this is a networking event, not a card game, so don't go giving out business cards like you are dealing a hand of poker!
And don't be that person always looking around to see if there is a better offer in the room. Be attentive to the person with whom you are speaking.
Remember, you must be present to win, so go to that next networking event with confidence and plenty of business cards to build meaningful relationships and help grow your business or nonprofit organization.
Carol Arnott Robbins is a Certified Financial Planner, Chartered Financial Consultant, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst and an Accredited Domestic Partnership Advisor. She regularly presents seminars on a variety of financial topics of importance to women.