According to an experiment conducted by Princeton University psychologists, it takes about a tenth of a second to form an opinion on a stranger from their facial expression. What, if anything, can we learn from their findings? Perhaps that it is extremely important to come across as confident and approachable, especially in a business setting where you are trying to make potential connections.
If you are the type of person who considers networking events one of life’s necessary evils, trust me, you are not alone. There are the outgoing socialites who dream about the next time they are in a situation that revolves around them, but for most, networking leads to uncomfortable small talk and awkward silences. Unfortunately, however, networking is a crucial part of the real estate industry – and any business for that matter – which is why strengthening your in-person communication skills should be a top priority.
Luckily, my partners over at CT Homes and I have compiled a list of the most important tips both new and seasoned investors should consider before their next networking event – especially if they want to impress the most influential individuals.
1. Body Language
Because you only have a moment to make that initial impression, you want to be professional, yet friendly. If you are in an open setting, keep a smile on your face as you walk through the room. When you arrive at the event, shift your focus from yourself to the other people around you. Make sure your arms are uncrossed – or you’ll appear guarded and self conscious – and keep your upper body open and lifted. Always offer to shake hands. I consider people’s handshakes their secret weapons. If your handshake is firm and authoritative, I will automatically assume you’ve done this before, and – therefore – consider you someone with experience. Finally, be aware of your eye contact. Whether you’re listening to a CEO give his full-on spiel or you’re simply shaking hands with his intern, maintain eye contact. This is not to say you should make things uncomfortable, but prove that you are interested and invested in what people are saying.
2. Be Your Brand
What is the first word that pops into an individual’s head when you mention your company? Are you known for your epic marketing skills? Are you the go-to resource for beginners who want real estate investing advice? Whatever the answer may be, rep it with pride and make it your entire self. If you haven’t specified this yet, make your brand your number one priority. At a networking event, you are sure to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who are probably experts in their respective field, so you want to stand out. The key here is to carve out a distinctive niche, and then make it what you are known for. Just be sure to keep the mentality that you are there to help others. Try not to focus too much on how you want different people to help you. The last thing you want is to come off as desperate and needy. Soon, you will have the monopoly on your specialty, and others will begin to seek you out.
3. The Pitch
Before your networking event, prepare three different spiels: your three second “handshake pitch,” your 45 second “elevator pitch,” and your three minute “now-that-I-have-your-attention pitch.” It is safe to say that in a two to three hour time period, you will be introduced to dozens of professionals. Some will be interested in what you have to say, others will not. However, you need to be equipped for any situation, especially since you might have limited time with those you desire to impress most. For every handshake, you should have one sentence that vaguely sums up who you are and what you do, but make sure not to give it all away. You want to entice the person enough for them to come find you later during the event. Then there’s what I call the elevator pitch; You don’t always have to be in an elevator of course, but use this whenever you have a slightly extended period of time with someone. This is the moment when you need that “wow” statement. Try stating a problem that you may have observed in your business transactions and follow up with how you’ve created a solution. When you finally get the chance to have a full-fledged conversation with someone, pull out the “big guns.” Have your stats, plans, and list of accomplishments ready to go. People are guaranteed to be impressed by your preparation.
The saying “practice makes perfect” is only a cliche because it is true. You might be anxious about your next networking event, but the only way to calm the nerves is to be completely prepared. You need to know what you are going to say; to the point where your spiel works like a well-oiled machine. It might feel silly, but try rehearsing in front of the mirror or for a video camera to see how you’ll come across to others. It might also be helpful to do some research on the different people who are attending. If you are able to find out some information about a particular person’s likes and dislikes, or a little more about his or her company, you will automatically have something to talk about. The more practiced you are, the more confident you will feel. Make sure to use the self-fulfilling prophecy to your advantage. If you go into the event labeling yourself as worried and stressed, chances are, it will be very apparent to those around you. Keep a positive, levelheaded mindset, and you will be a convincing professional.
Ultimately, if you want to be successful in the real estate industry, there is no getting around networking. At some point or another, you will want to attend an event or conference and get the word about your business out there. You might be nervous at first, but over time, you’ll feel like a pro and be benefiting your business in the process.