Tis the season for networking and for many, its a frightful thought walking up to someone and starting a conversation. Usually its easier to walk up to someone you know to get introduced.
But once you’re introduced then what?Remember an individual can size you up in 3 to 4 seconds. However, in the next 10 minutes after a first meeting you have the opportunity to make or break those formed expectations, beginning with your greeting.
Here are some tips to make your first impression a lasting one:
• When you are introduced, if you are seated, stand up. This communicates that you are indeed happy to meet the person.
• Once you have stood up, step forward and smile. Even if it’s been your worst day, try to look pleasant and extend your hand and say hello.
• When you are in public and someone sees you and says hello, a smile and a nod is all that’s needed when passing by.
• When being introduced to someone who does not have full use of his or her right arm, extend your right hand anyway and they will extend their left.
• When seeing an old friend, extend your hand rather than giving a hug in business.
• If you tend to be nervous when meeting people, resulting in clammy hands, don’t fret. Carry a handkerchief with you and wipe them off before meeting someone.
• Practice making a good handshake – it communicates everything about you. A lifeless handshake equates to a lifeless, insecure person. Forget crippling handshakes, the “politician’s pump” or “the glove.” Give a handshake that is positive and firm and held for about 3 to 4 seconds. Give direct eye contact and smile as well.
• To initiate conversation you might ask a few questions to learn more about the person but avoid the “twenty questions.”
• Another way to get past the hellos and how-do-you-do’s is to ask questions related to attitudes, likes and dislikes like food, the music or the place that the event is being held, or about interest in the arts and literature. Avoid complaining about the event, though.
• Another way to stimulate rapport is to give a sincere complement. A simple thank you is all that is necessary as a response. Don’t tell how much it cost and where you got it.
• Asking for help is another way of establishing rapport. People are more than happy to help someone who asks for advice. For example, “Where should someone go for a great meal and entertainment?”
• Another way to approach someone is to start a conversation about your hobbies. If one of your hobbies is traveling, you might ask whether the other person has traveled and talk about his experiences. Don’t monopolize on your hobbies, ask them about their hobbies. This brings out the best in people and establishes a sound, lasting rapport.
• Humor is another approach. For example, “Gosh, if this party gets any more popular, we’ll have to start lining up like sardines.” Avoid off-color jokes and other touchy subject. It’s safer to joke about the weather than about religion, race, politics or the battle of the sexes. If you’re not a great joke teller you might want to avoid this approach.
*Read the newspaper and other daily news sources so you have some things to talk about other than work and career.