Networking – how to make lasting connections

When we attend networking events we want to make a meaningful and positive impression on the people we meet.  There are deep rooted psychological as well as practical reasons for this.


As human being we have an innate desire to impress others. This is rooted in our evolutionary need to forge strong connections with our peers. In pre-historic times being part of a group was fundamental to our survival as it protected us from predators and other threats. Two millennia later, success in career and social relations is the new definition of survival. We seek professional and social validation from our peers, and networking events are our new savannas.


The good news is that you can use the art of social skills in your networking to make the time spent at events well worthwhile.


Let me share some tips for networking success, and making lasting first impressions.


Using an imaginary microphone

Meeting strangers in a formal setting with the intent to make connections is in fact a form of public speaking. You may not be on the stage but you are essentially performing the same role.


An effective way to make a first strong impression with an important group is to use the microphone technique. When introducing yourself to the group imagine standing on a stage (or on live radio) with a microphone. This mental exercise helps in two ways: first, you are likely to speak in concise sentences with a better selection of words, and second, your voice and cadence will sound more measured. You will be surprised to see how employing this technique purposefully can instantly prime your audience to tune into what you have to say.


Getting names right

People like to hear their names or at least see peers make an effort to spell or pronounce them correctly. It helps affirm their existence and reinforces their sense of self. Directly asking a person to help you with the pronunciation of their unfamiliar or challenging name can be the simplest yet most powerful way to show respect and establish positive association. It’s worth remembering that requesting people to repeat their names is still more polite than asking them for a shorter name or a nickname.


Employing the pause

What are your most memorable movie scenes or speeches? Would you describe them as powerful and moving? Watch them again and you will notice that their impact, in all likelihood, is down to the well-timed pauses in their delivery. Pausing before and after important ideas helps to create emphasis and significance. This not only allows the audience to absorb the message more intently it also makes the speaker appear more confident and powerful. So even when speaking one to one use the power of the pause.


Understanding the value of hand gestures

An analysis of TED talks a few years ago revealed that the most viral speakers used an average of nearly 465 hand gestures. The least popular speakers, on the other hand, used half as many. Even with the sound off speeches with more hand gestures received higher scores from test volunteers on trustworthiness and charisma than those with fewer gestures. In other words, what was said was less impactful than how it was said. In another study, researchers found that using hand gestures increased the value of the spoken message by sixty percent. Combining verbal and nonverbal cues enhanced information processing and recall.


When engaging at a networking event allow your hands to complement your spoken communication. Hands indicate intention. Using them effectively and purposefully can help establish trust and credibility with your peers.


Opening your ears

Positive first impressions and interactions do not consist of confident verbal and non-verbal speech alone. Constructive engagement in small groups, like those in the networking events, also depend on your ability to listen effectively. At Toastmasters International, we emphasise the need to develop listening skills as much as speaking skills.


To establish a connection with your group it’s important that you listen not just with your ears but your eyes too. This means active and attentive visual listening by paying close attention to the person you want to build a rapport with. Making eye contact with them, observing their posture, facial expressions, and body language will help you gain insights into their intentions and emotions. This also reflects authenticity and sincerity on your part.


Being truly memorable

Events like networking require repetitive and seemingly mundane exchange of basic information such as names, jobs and interests. In professional settings people often resist the idea of saying anything unusual or adding ‘colourful’ details when introducing themselves. But these elements are exactly what can make you stand out, appear instantaneously interesting and leave your peers with something to remember you by long after you’ve met them. The key is to do it skilfully and within context.


Memorable examples include Steve Jobs once introducing himself at a university commencement speech by saying ‘’he had never graduated from college.” And tennis ace Steffi Graf opening with: “I’m Steffi Graf, and my backhand is so fierce that it has its own fan club.”


Incorporating a surprising statement, humorous facts, or a professional anecdote into your introduction can be an excellent way to create a positive and long-lasting impression.



By using the art of social skills you’ll find yourself enjoying networking events and making connections that will be mutually beneficial and valuable over time.



Nishtha Chugh is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs.








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