Sometimes the world of networking can be hairy to navigate. You try to put your best face forward, but connecting with people can be a difficult endeavor, even for the friendliest of folks. Luckily we're here with some tips to make you the most likable entrepreneur in your biz.
1. Don’t badmouth people.
One of the drawbacks to networking and meeting lots of new people is that some of those folks will be terrible. It can be tempting to go on a thinly veiled Facebook rant about Becky With the Bad Attitude, or even to just gossip a bit among close friends.
But if you’ve been through middle school or understand internet basics, you know that Becky is probably going to hear what you had to say. And when it’s a year down the line and suddenly you notice she’s best friends with the developer you really want to hire, things probably aren’t going to go well. It's important not to burn bridges, even if they're tacky bridges you never want to cross again.
Additionally, no one likes a gossip. (Though everyone seems to like listening to gossip.) If word gets around that you badmouth people, others may keep their distance. So play nice and realize that not everyone has to be your friend, but that you should keep some opinions to yourself.
2. Curate your first impression.
It’s important to smile when meeting people. Also, practice good body language. Give a firm handshake, stand up straight and maintain eye contact. (That last one is terrifying, I know! If you can’t maintain eye contact, try staring at their forehead between the eyes. Sounds weird, but it’s much less stressful, and people won’t know the difference.)
Finally, remember names! I know that most of us chronically forget a name the minute we hear it, but “I’m bad with names!” is a tired excuse. Seriously, just take five minutes to read a primer, then practice practice practice.
3. Show off the right way.
You’re doing great things, and that’s fantastic. Be proud, and don’t be afraid to share your successes across social media. But try to keep a level of humility about your progress. It’s probably a good idea to stay away from “With all these new investors my life is just so busy!” humblebrags, and maybe limit the amount of times you post about your awesome site redesign.
Additionally, be sure to celebrate the successes of others! (Even if people are a bit humblebrag-y about them.) Send a congratulatory email to that acquaintance who just launched his startup, or retweet about that promotion your friend received. It’s nice to be nice, plus people remember well-wishers fondly!
4. Be reliable.
Don’t be that person who shows up late to every meeting, coffee date, appointment and funeral. There’s nothing more frustrating than being kept waiting, especially for punctual people. Time is truly valuable, and if you’re needlessly wasting even minutes of someone's day, you’re not respecting them.
Of course there are extenuating circumstances here and there, but if you’re the type of person who always seems to have something in the way of being on time, people will stop meeting with you, and word will get around about your level of reliability (or lack thereof).
Also, don’t make promises you can’t keep! Sometimes it can be hard saying “no” to people, but in the long run it’s worse not following through on the “yes.” Don’t agree to write that guest post or host that webinar if you’re not actually planning doing the work. Instead, offer another way that you might help out, or sign on for a later date when you can actually participate.
5. Be genuine.
Networking can feel like a bit of a schmoozefest at times, but don’t feel like you have to be inauthentic to be liked. We all have our quirks and idiosyncrasies, and as long as they’re not offensive don’t feel like you have to hide them. Plus, most people can spot a big fake from a mile away. So make that dumb pun or talk about your love of reality TV. People may not quite get it, but they’ll like you even more for having a genuine spirit.
Connecting with others can be surprisingly difficult. Luckily, there are a number of ways you can stand out and be the most likable person in the room!