The Art of Networking with Darlene Regula of Dale Carnegie
The Chamber is proud to bring our members a variety of networking opportunities, including our beloved Business Exchange Luncheons, and the always-popular Chamber After Hours series. For many, networking events are an awesome place to make new connections, but for others, networking can be stressful. Does that sound like you? Never fear! We’ve brought in an expert to share some tips on the art of networking!
Darlene Regula is a Managing Director and Master Trainer for Dale Carnegie Training, which has been providing individuals with the skills to enhance both their personal and professional lives for over a century. Darlene is a master networker, and she is here to share her top tips to make long-lasting, impactful connections at your next networking event.
First things first: How do you kick off a conversation with a stranger?
They say you have less than 7 seconds to make an impression on a person, so smile, look them in the eye and let them know who you are. Try to remember their name and use it in conversation with them. Dale Carnegie teaches that you should always focus your conversation on the other person. Make it about someone else so you can quickly build a good connection. If they feel a connection with you, they will give you a chance to talk about yourself as well.
Ask things that are comfortable for most people to answer like “what do you do in your role?” and “what do you like about your company?” Keep it professional, and if the conversation is going well, it will naturally get more personal when you are both feeling comfortable.
What are some common mistakes people make at networking events?
The biggest mistake people consistently make at a networking event is spending all their time with people they already know. That’s not networking! Try to only spend about 20% of your time at a networking event with people you are familiar with. Keep yourself moving around the room to maximize the number of new connections you make!
Also, don’t drink too much! People often use alcohol as a crutch to make them feel more comfortable at networking events, but we all know too much alcohol can turn unprofessional very quickly! It’s important to be your best self, and to also represent your company, so stay professional and don’t have too many cocktails.
What do you say to someone who is uncomfortable with networking?
What it means to be uncomfortable is that you are out of your comfort zone. The only way to expand your comfort zone is to do things that make you feel uncomfortable! If you’re uncomfortable, ask yourself “why?” and tell yourself “what’s the worst that can happen?” You can’t get over a fear if you don’t face it head-on.
You can even practice “networking” by just going to new places that you aren’t familiar with, such as restaurants, parks, or the mall, just to start getting comfortable interacting in new places and with new people.
How do you turn a connection you made at a networking event into something meaningful?
When you talk to somebody, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to tell if they’re a good connection for you. You can pick up quickly on whether their professional role matches what you’re looking for in a connection. When you’re wrapping up your conversation say something like “hey it’s been great talking to you, can we meet up sometime soon?” Make an appointment with them and let them know you feel they’re a valuable connection. If you don’t make a follow up appointment with them at the event, make sure you connect with them elsewhere quickly after you meet! Send them an email or LinkedIn invitation in a timely manner. If you wait a month or two, people won’t remember who you are!
Any other advice?
Arrive to the event early. Take a few minutes to scope out the room. One thing I like to do is scope out the name tag table. You can see who is coming and figure out who you want to connect with over the course of the event. Also, if there is food at the event, it’s great to come early and eat, so that you aren’t taking time away from crucial networking time munching on some appetizers!
And of course, bring your business cards! It’s the easiest way to pass your contact information over to someone else so they can easily follow up with you later!
Now that you’ve gotten some amazing advice from Darlene, it’s time to put your new networking skills to the test! Join us for casual evening networking over cocktails at Chamber After Hours on June 27th at New Hotel Mertens – it’s totally FREE for Chamber members to attend! For more structured networking, consider attending one of our monthly Business Exchange Luncheons!