Unlock Your Networking Potential with These Simple Steps

When asking founders what one of their biggest challenges is, the most common answer: networking. While making new connections can be tough, the 30+ attendees at the workshop led by Herb Escher, President of Dale Carnegie Central New York, left NextCorps with techniques they can use to go beyond small talk and expand their networks in meaningful ways. 

Dale Carnegie Network Training

According to Escher, networking doesn’t have to be intimidating. In fact, anyone can master it using a few simple tips and tricks.

1. Approach New People Like You Already Know Them

When you walk into a room packed with people, it’s natural to gravitate towards familiar faces. But here’s the thing: the real magic happens when you break out of that comfort zone and chat up those you don’t know. It might initially feel awkward, but it’s worth it. 

Escher suggests thinking of every new person you meet as an old friend you haven’t seen in ages. “Looking at new people as if they are lifelong friends gets rid of overthinking and allows you to take control of the situation. So why not embrace this mindset?”

Approach each encounter energetically. Ask how they’re doing, and skip the small talk about the weather. Show genuine interest in what they have to say, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly the conversation flows.

Granted, it might take some practice to get the hang of it, but keep at it. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. And the rewards? A growing circle teeming with opportunities.

2. Use a Visual to Guide Your Conversation

Escher introduced attendees to a truly game-changing visual device when it comes to sparking natural conversation — though it requires a bit of memorization. Picture a nameplate evolving into the foundation of a grand house. As you peer through its windows, you’ll spot a cozy family gathered in the living room. A young boy, donning a worker’s glove, reaches up the chimney for a toy airplane with tennis racket propellers, and flashing red lights underneath. It might sound strange, but there’s brilliance here.

Each element of this visual holds meaning:

  • The nameplate serves as the starting point, representing the crucial first question in a conversation with someone new: their name.
  • The house embodies inquiries about their background and where they live.
  • The family scene prompts questions about their loved ones — children, parents, partners, and pets.
  • The worker’s glove symbolizes discussions about occupation.
  • The toy airplane sparks conversations about travel experiences and aspirations.
  • The tennis rackets signify inquiries about hobbies or sports.
  • And finally, the flashing red lights, akin to the lightbulb in a cartoon, signify moments of inspiration — asking about ideas or perceptions.

By incorporating this visual into your approach with new people, you’ll steer clear of awkward silences and mundane topics. It will help you convey a genuine interest in the person you’re engaging with, leaving a lasting impression and fostering a desire to stay connected. It will also make it easier to engage with them the next time you see them, using a framework filled with information to pull from and ask about.

3. Hold Yourself in High Regard

Dale Carnegie Networking on Rooftop
Attendees put what they learned into practice during a happy hour on NextCorps’ rooftop patio following Escher’s networking workshop.

According to Psychology Today, up to 85% of people experience a lack of confidence in social situations. Recognizing that the person you’re approaching might feel the same way can help ease your nerves and create a more comfortable interaction, for both of you. Taking that initial step requires building self-confidence and understanding that you’re not alone when feeling anxious.

Once you’ve gathered the courage to approach someone, pay attention to your energy during the conversation. People with positive energy tend to make a lasting impression, unlike those who seem uninterested or closed off. Escher emphasized the significance of maintaining balanced energy in new interactions.

“Think about grabbing a soda,” he noted. “You don’t want it flat or overly fizzy. The perfect soda has just the right amount of fizz, and it’s the same for people’s energy when talking.”

You can enhance your interactions by applying these insights to your networking strategy. Don’t forget to stand tall, maintain eye contact, and speak with confidence. Finding the right balance between confidence and the energy you exude will make you more approachable.

Practice Makes Better

Now that you’re armed with a few pointers on creating connections, get out there and put them into action! You just might meet your next employee, partner, or investor. 

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