Have you ever by stroke of luck ended up in an elevator with one of the people in your industry you admire most? Your heart was probably racing while you were trying to decide what to say (and how to say it, of course). By the time you worked up the courage to mutter a sentence or two, the door opened and out went your work “idol.” Chances are, after that experience, you were kicking yourself wishing you hadn’t chickened out.
The whole process of networking—including meeting those you admire most—can be extremely intimidating. The good news is that with a few solid tricks up your sleeve, you’ll be able to work the room like a pro. We’ve rounded up the top five science-backed tips that will help you make a good impression at your next networking event. Scroll down to see our top networking tips.
KEEP A POLISHED APPEARANCE
Having a tidy appearance may sound like a given, but even a few wrinkles or a chipped manicure can make a bad first impression when meeting new people. “Appearance is extraordinarily powerful because it’s the first filter,” says Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an economist and the founding president of the Center for Talent Innovation in New York City. A study conducted by CTI along with Marie Claire identified several key factors that contributed to “executive presence,” or the quality of looking like a leader. The research confirmed that appearing “pulled together” was the most important physical quality you could have in the workplace. Bonus points that a well-groomed appearance will make you feel more confident to go up and introduce yourself.
REMEMBER TO STAND TALL
We already know that good posture is beneficial to our health, but it also makes us appear more powerful. In a popular TED Talk, social psychologist Amy Cuddy explained how making the right bodily movements can increase your confidence. “In the animal kingdom, power and dominance is about expanding; making yourself look bigger,” she says, adding that humans expand by having good posture (standing tall with our hands on our hips). According to Cuddy, using this posture pose can help us communicate better (and it also makes a lasting first impression).
MAKE EYE CONTACT WHILE TALKING
Although making eye contact with someone you’ve just met can seem a bit uncomfortable if you’re not used to it, hold the individual’s gaze for a few seconds at a time. Joint research conducted by the University of Wolverhampton and the University of Stirling proves that holding eye contact with someone for only 30 percent of your conversation increases how much the other person remembers from your talk. In this study, volunteers participated in video chats with one another and they were later tested to see how much they retained from the conversation (even 30 seconds of eye contact in a one-minute conversation seemed to spark their memory).
GIVE A GENUINE COMPLIMENT
Have you ever heard of the phrase “Flattery will get you far?” It will when you’re networking, too … especially when you’re not sure what to say next. Jo Owen, author of the book How to Lead: What the Best Leaders Know, Do and Say, writes that according to research, flattery is never counterproductive. “You cannot flatter too much,” says Owen. “Gentle flattery builds rapport.” Of course, you want to make sure your compliments are genuine, but giving kudos on a successful project or article the individual has completed will acknowledge that you really are following their career.
In order to stand out from the pack, it’s crucial to find something positive to be remembered for, whether that means you ask a unique question or wear a tasteful statement piece. According to research by Nico Bunzeck and Emrah Düzel, part of our brain called SN/VTA reacts to novelty and how novel something is. In this case, we can actually use our creativity to make a lasting positive first impression.
Be sure to read about common words that super-confident girls never use, and share your top networking tips in the comments.