Business networking events are a beneficial and important part of professional life, as they help to create new business contacts, cement existing relationships, and raise the profile of yourself and/or your company amongst other like minded professionals.
With that in mind, how much thought do you give as to how you should present yourself, when in attendance?
What is your professional positioning? It will influence and affect how you present yourself at the networking event.
If you are a newcomer to your professional field, consider the impression you need to create. You will want to build your own knowledge and understanding of the profession through information and insight, and your attendance at the networking event is to create awareness of who you are and your professional capability.
If you are beginning to establish yourself as a potential expert in your field, you need to demonstrate that credibility and knowledge, so the professionals alongside you can start learning about you, and become aware of your developing professional reputation.
If you are established in your field, you have to maintain that profile and honour the reputation that you have built.
You will need to use the networking events to cement existing business relationships, and demonstrate your on-going professional expertise, to maintain your reputation as a market leader.
So you have now identified your positioning within your professional field, and the next task is to complement that level with how you present yourself at networking events.
If you are a newcomer, your best approach is to show interest and understanding of your profession. If you try too hard to champion your abilities and achievements, you may in fact be preaching to an audience of already established professionals in your field. Trying too hard to sell yourself in the early days could translate as over-eager and over-confident.
If you are becoming recognised as a potential expert in your field, you need to present yourself with confidence and warmth.
Your professional journey is still taking place, and you hope the established professionals will recognise your abilities, and learn of your increasing reputation. If you present yourself as “someone to watch” that will create curiosity and interest in who you are and what you hope to achieve.
If you are an established professional, you need to present yourself with a friendly and open demeanour. You will need to maintain the high level of service and loyalty to existing relationships, in order to maintain your reputation and continued success.
Whilst you need to consider how to present yourself, you can learn so much from watching others too. Just as people will gain an impression of you in a business networking environment, there are qualities and traits which you in turn will notice about the other professionals, which will help you discover what approach and demeanour is important to you.
Do you notice, for example, the professionals who talk too much? Who barely speak? Who deliver flat, closed statements rather than engage in conversation?
Think about their body language – Do they turn towards the person speaking and make eye contact? Or do they look around the room, when someone else is talking?
All these observations help to confirm and establish your own thought process on how you want to come across, and how you want to be perceived when in the business networking environment.
When observing other people in the networking environment, you can learn so much from their demeanour and approach. Every comment or interaction will give you information about that professional, with clues as to how they choose to conduct themselves in a professional capacity. If a person keeps conversation to business when networking, they are unlikely to want a personal rapport to build with any business contacts.
If they chat openly and freely about a range of topics, it is more likely they prefer to know more about the contacts they are working with.
Whilst some professionals wish to keep business relationships as purely business, others prefer a more personal approach. If you acquire the skill of observing these different traits, you can respond accordingly and build up a stronger working relationship.
Whilst we are talking about how to present yourself, it seems rather confusing to suggest you ‘summarise’ the networking event. But consider your reflection of the event, the day after; Did you talk to professionals you hoped to talk to? Did you get that message across about a professional milestone, that you wanted to bring to people’s attention? Did you come across in the manner you hoped? Did you create the new business contact that you were hoping for? If you consider what you would like your positive summarising points to be, that will also help with presenting yourself successfully.
About Sarah Watson
Sarah Watson has been married to Andrew, a solicitor, for more than 20 years and has worked as a legal secretary for more than 25 years. After observing how people respond in different ways to the corporate networking environment, Sarah came to the conclusion that there is a correct code of conduct for Corporate Wives to recognise and demonstrate, and that is what persuaded her to write The Corporate Wife Handbook.