Millions of people attend networking events to meet new people, but are you making the right impression?
How many networking events have you attended throughout your career? I’m hoping you’ve attended at least a few; networking events are some of the best professional opportunities you can find, giving you a chance to meet new people, gain exposure for your personal brand, and learn new things along the way. But one of the most important ingredients to networking success is also one of the most misunderstood; you have to make a good first impression, but first impressions may not work the way you think.
Confidence and Trustworthiness
Most people believe you have to exert an air of confidence to make a good first impression. While that can certainly help, it shouldn’t be your main priority. People are more receptive to others when they view them as trustworthy, and some forms of confidence can actively work against that. Work on being trustworthy before you try too hard to project confidence.
Professionalism and Sincerity
You’ll also be tempted to make yourself appear and interact as professionally as possible. Again, this isn’t a bad idea, but it can interfere with your success. People prefer to meet and interact with sincere people; if you act professional, but not like “yourself,” you could end up pushing people away.
The Culture of Connection
Finally, you need to worry less about being “impressive” to people, and more about connecting with others. You can connect over almost anything—sharing an experience, having something in common, or even laughing at the same joke. You just have to have a touch point that you can talk about later.
Professional networking is one of the most powerful tools you have for growing your career, but don’t let your preconceived notions interfere with how you use it. Practice regularly, become comfortable with meeting new people, and soon, you’ll have a much larger network of contacts to draw on.