Monique Trosper led a successful career in the steel industry before she allowed herself to indulge her true passion, opening a Merle Norman franchise at IRC’s Hickory Creek Marketplace. Over the past few years, she’s weathered the economic storm (has it ended yet?), adjusted her business plan to the changing retail landscape, and invested her time getting re-involved in networking events, including Women-Owned Business groups, the local Chamber of Commerce and associations for fashion and beauty. Monique has done a lot of networking, including a stint as President of the Frankfort Chamber of Commerce, but she wasn’t always so confident about walking into a roomful of folks she didn’t know. Here are her tips for making the most of any networking event, whether a formal event or impromptu gathering.
- Headed to an event? Take 10 minutes to make a list of the people or types of people you want to connect with. When you walk in knowing what type of profession you’re looking for, you’re more focused on who you spend time with and can measure your networking success. Meet everyone you can, but target specific people who will help get you to your goals. Oh, yes, and that means have some goals in mind as you network, first.
- Hold your head high, walk slowly and don’t forget to smile. Your body language says so much to others in the room, and even when you’re feeling shy or lacking confidence as you enter a stranger filled room (face it, we all feel that instant surge of fear), smiling and walking tall will convey confidence and here’s a good case for fake it till you make it. Others will notice your confident walk and a smile is the easiest, most honest icebreaker.
- Dress to impress. It’s not just because she is fashion-minded. Monique suggests you feel better when you’re dressed up, wearing pretty heels and makeup (ladies), and a vibrant accent to stand with some subtle style, like a great tie or colorful scarf or bright jacket (yellow is a great attention getting color). Others will notice you – that’s more than half the battle.
- Before approaching a group, note if everyone seems engaged (not just one person holding court), make sure there’s enough room for you to fall into the “circle” easily and smiling, introduce yourself and comment about how fun this group looked from across the room and you wanted to learn more about each member of the group. It’s hard for others to reject someone who just suggested they look interesting.
- Follow up with an email, personal note or phone call to the prospects or mentors you’ve connected with. Try to schedule a coffee or brief phone conversation with anyone you may have discovered future collaborative opportunities. Even if you find them simply interesting and appealing, but not necessarily a good business fit, follow up. Chances are, they know the type of business professions you’re trying to connect with.
- Don’t forget to smile, before during and after the event. Didn’t we say that already?
To contact Monique for advice, insight or more about her experience, contact IRC’s Jeanne Heller.