« 4. EI skills: Five ways to introduce yourself easily »

By Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute; Author of "Business networking" (now out of print).

Business networking skills are essential for business owners, professional men and women, and anyone wanting to develop contacts, build their profiles or advance their careers. 

However, there are a lot of communication skills required, and emotional intelligence skills are needed as well.

Networking involves being able to engage people, and this is an emotional event: feeling engaged in conversation is an emotion.

Many of my clients have said that one of the most difficult parts of networking, and the one in which they may feel most awkward is introducing themselves to people, particularly to strangers or those who are more senior than themselves. 

This article will therefore look at five ways to make introducing yourself to people at business networking events easier for you.

By becoming more confident in meeting new people, and by managing your emotions well in potentially awkward networking situations, you are less likely to miss out on meeting people who may be important to you.

Emotional intelligence skills have many practical applications in a business networking setting, and developing the confidence to approach people is just one of them.

Emotional intelligence skills 1: Prepare a line of introduction

If you feel at all nervous or shy about introducing yourself to new people, and don't know what to say, prepare an introductory line you can use, and say more than your name. If you only say your name, other people may only say theirs in return, and the conversation can fall immediately into a dead space. Add on one sentence of interesting information about yourself.

Ensure this line of introduction connects you with the event and gives the other people an idea as to what they can talk to you about.

For example, when introducing myself at a wedding once, I said, "Hi I'm Rachel, the cousin of Dave's father, we found each other doing the family history recently. What's your history with the bride and groom?"

If you feel awkward or tentative about introducing itself, find a way to change your emotions to more positive ones. It may help you to do this if you shift your attention away from yourself and onto the other people. Work out a way to help put other people at ease and you may put yourself at ease.

Emotional intelligence includes being able to manage your own emotions and those of others. Both are important emotional intelligence skills for networking purposes, so you become quickly engaged with the people you introduce yourself to.

Emotional intelligence skills 2: Arrive early

If you are at all shy of meeting new people, arrive early at events before huddles form. It's much easier at the start to meet people as people will automatically gravitate towards you. As a new person walks into the room he or she will go and meet the people who are already there.

You may also find people spend more time with you at the start before the crowds arrive.

Make it easy for yourself - it's emotionally intelligent!

Emotional intelligence skills 3: Approach people standing alone

People who are standing alone are often feeling uncomfortable, awkward or out on a limb because they don't know anyone. They may be relieved to have someone come and introduce themselves and start talking to them.

Therefore, look for the people who are on their own and are looking lost and lonely, and go up and introduce yourself. 

Emotional intelligence skills 4: Offer food around

Sometimes it is easier to make conversation and meet people when you put yourself in a role.

For instance, at an event where there are no waiters, taking food around can be a great icebreaker for getting to meet people. The plate gives you some feeling of security and a reason to move around. It gives you an excuse to go up and meet absolutely everyone, including the most senior, popular and important people there.

It can be an emotional security blanket. Using your emotional intelligence skills does not mean you always have to "tough it out". 

Emotional intelligence skills 5: Fade into groups

Watch for positive body language signs. If people are standing or sitting in a way that is open towards you, then this is a sign that you may be able to approach them. When you need to break into a group look for a space between people.

Most groups of people leave spaces between each other. Walk up to a space and into it, standing between the people, (not outside the group) and wait. Usually within about 30 seconds someone will look at you. This means you are in.

You can then simply join in the conversation, or if you prefer, say something about yourself. It may be something simple such as, "Hi I'm Mary Oburtson from Canberra Food and Beverage, may I join you?" People don't usually say "No, get lost!" If you want to see this in action, we do a live demonstration of how to fade into groups on the "Business networking: The skills you need" DVD.

Don't hesitate to move on quickly if you feel you are intruding in a conversation that doesn't concern you; however, usually people who do not want to be interrupted stand close together, close off any gaps and lean in. This usually means they are sharing industry or personal secrets and it's private. Avoid these groups unless you are feeling very brave.

Having emotional intelligence does not mean you have to be brave all the time, it means you can read other people accurately and act accordingly! This applies in business networking, as it does in all business and work situations. How high is your emotional intelligence?

Develop your business networking and emotional intelligence

There is so much more to learn about how to engage people, how to develop high levels of emotional intelligence, and how to be brilliant at business networking so you build your business. We have only scratched the surface here. Would you like yourself or your team to be even more skilled at business networking so they engage the people who matter? You can. With us

For more details or to make a booking e-mail us now or pick up the phone and call us and we will discuss your options with you.