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networking tips: master the art of meeting new people like a boss

I don't claim to be the Warren Buffet of networking expertise, but trust when I tell you, relationship marketing has literally catapulted me to where I am now. And I'm talking the real deal shiz, not sleazy slimy needy networking. More like, genuinely being interested in people who are not yourself. What a thought! And while this isn't an exhaustive list of tips, practice with this little refresher and I'll be back with the ultimate guide to winning over every single person you meet, even if you're too anxious to even leave your house!

We live in a world that makes opportunities harder for women. Whilst the presumption is often that girl bosses, (AKA female entrepreneurs) need only wiggle their hips and bat their eyelashes to secure a deal, this is simply not the case; nor would the vast majority of women want it to be. Can I get a feminist amen! However, what this presumption does is make it seem like businesswomen are getting an easier ride, all the while also preventing them from using their genuine skills to impress on the corporate playground. In other words, it can be a ‘lose-lose’ situation for girls who lack the confidence to stand out from the crowd and crush the stereotypes with wit, charm, and smarts. And I know you have all of dat!

The reality is that the business world can be tough for women. Yet, when we do succeed, we often do so in such inimitable style and magnificence that it is difficult to imagine any other outcome. From Anna Wintour to Oprah Winfrey, Karen Brady, Victoria Beckham, Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg, and more – we continue to prove that, with the right networking know how, we can beat the boys club ten times over at their own game.

These networking tips and tricks will help you learn how to dazzle at any professional mixer event, no matter what the size or who might be listening. Hey, these even work for fashion week! If there are people, you'll be networking. Period.

Always Arrive Early

Babycakes, let me tell you why this is so important. This is a great piece of advice for anybody who really has to work to ooze out what will appear to others as effortless confidence which business people love. But I'll give it to you straight, for those of us that are introverts, shy, or downright socially anxious like a skittish newborn kitten, then arriving early at any event is a saving grace. You mark that territory girl, creep along the perimeter and size people up, take mental notes, find a reclusive corner of familiarity, and create a game plan before anyone arrives in droves to start sizing you up as well. After all, some people will always find schmoozing harder than others. If you arrive at a networking event early, however, it will be much easier to pick out the key players and make a conversational beeline for them. If you rock up to the party after everybody else has already found a friend to chat with, it is going to be difficult to make a strong impression. Needless to say, early risers win the pot. And strategizing some compliments to pay to people you are mentally stalking will score you major brownie points come time to muster courage for introductions. #justsayin

Start with the Easy Stuff

There is absolutely no reason why you cannot generate a conversation with something easy, obvious, or even a little dull. Whilst an opener like ‘Hi, how are you today?’ is not going to win any awards for creativity, it is a quick and uncomplicated way to grab the attention of the person that you are interested in. It's a major faux pas to hang about the edges of the room at a networking event, so use whatever it takes to get talking. Actually, I just made that up. There are no faux paus at networking events so long as you're not running around naked or releasing mass texts on a teleprompter in a Mean Girls fashion, but it is kind of cheesy to dish out all that money to attend and find your ass magnetized to the sidelines. So find the easiest small talk you can find. If you're like me and hate small talk, find a mutually beneficial icebreaker, which for me has always been asking a question about the program for the event. You get answers, and make a new friend who most likely is also waiting to break the ice without chatting about the goddamn weather.

Avoid Sounding ‘Salesy’

According to behavioural studies, this is something which women are much better at than men, so take advantage of it. Guys tend to rush headlong into networking circles and almost immediately start talking about themselves, business women understand that there is more to networking than personal promotion. If networking functions were designed to showcase your demeanour at work, that is where they would be held – rather, they are designed to let corporate bigwigs get to know the face behind the brand. So stop being a pusha man!

Showcase Your Passion

Once you do get round to talking about your work, do not be afraid to present yourself as a real human being - one with interests and ambitions, as opposed to just a small biz owner. This can be tricky for female business owners, because sexism within the corporate world almost constantly tells women to close off, to depersonalise their interactions, and put barriers up. Yet, you can be warm and engaging without revealing too much; think about all of those ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ questions asked in school and how enthusiastically you used to answer them. Time and time again the majority of my compliments have been about my passion and energy for things I truly care about. I'm starting to see now that will be a part of my personality's legacy, so start working on yours. What do you want people to walk away from the event remembering you for? That amazing Celine bag you scored on eBay needs to be last on the list girl.

Try Not to Hijack Conversations, Seriously...

If you do not have a lot of experience with networking or you find it difficult to slip into confidence mode, be careful not to overcompensate by hijacking conversations. To make a great impression, you have to be a great listener as well as a smooth talker. So, make sure to look people in the eye, use their actual name when referring to them (this shows that you listen), keep track of interesting little tidbits and personal details (you can use these later), and keep the conversation going by leading into relaxed topics. Think of it this way. Remember that time you were kidnapped while shopping at the mall as a teenager? Yeah, me neither. That would be like the worse thing ever and therapy bills would be racking up. So please, do not hijack a convo. It is just as traumatizing for the person listening to you go on and on because you're too oblivious to get a grip on your socializing flaws. Cue the alert eye for body language, take a deep breath, apologize if you have to for spending ten minutes dominating the narrative, and be honest. If you're nervous and hate this crap, tell them so. You might find the scenario quite humorous and a bonding experience will unfold.

Don’t Forget to Follow Up

Lest we not forget that networking is not an open and shut activity – it is designed to create personal and professional threads that tie themselves to further communications. Yet, you cannot expect this to happen if you do not find out how to get in touch with somebody who seems like the right match for you, your team, your life, whatever the case may be. Before the event ends, always ask for a business card (you should have your own); shower the person with gratitude to have met them, and reach out with a ‘hello’ within two days. No exceptions. Don't become stale bread. Stale bread sucks. It's only good for stuffing. And stuffing ain't nothing without a turkey. Be the turkey. Be the focal point of every experience you attend. And if that is too much of a burden, freaks you out and makes you sweat just at the thought...then the stuffing :)

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