Networking events are an essential tool to help entrepreneurs expand their success potential. Corporate gatherings, happy hours, conferences, and cocktail parties all provide an opportunity for you to socialize with colleagues, customers, and potential clients.

That is why it is vital you be at your very best when it comes to attending such gatherings. Establishing a good first impression is more than just wearing an impressive suit and looking well groomed. You need great social skills too, and that begins with the ability to start a conversation with a complete stranger.

Sure, this might make you uncomfortable, but you can overcome this fear and learn to shine when it comes to connecting with other people.

Use Your Conversation Skills

If you’re not practicing your public speaking skills, you are neglecting a valuable resource when it comes to creating the impression you want among your colleagues and potential clients.

Starting a conversation and keeping the attention of your audience takes just as much skill as a business presentation, and being unprepared will hurt your chances of establishing a good relationship. You need to have confidence in yourself and be able to show it.

To help you improve, take a public speaking course, or join a Toastmasters club in your area. Prepare yourself to deliver presentations at industry meetings, or offer to be a guest lecturer at a local community college or university.

You can even practice delivering speeches in front of a mirror at home. Never neglect to set aside time to practice your communication skills. They are an essential part of creating the impression you want.

Be Aware of Your Body Language

Your body language can tell a person a lot about you before you even utter a word. Eye contact, the way you walk, smiling, and crossing your arms when you engage in a conversation send nonverbal cues to a person about who you are and the intentions you possess.

Thus, it’s important to be aware of what you are telling others by the way you carry yourself.Always extend a handshake when you first meet someone. Be aware that the type of handshake you give is a big indicator of who you are and what you want; never be wimpy or limp-wristed when delivering a handshake.

A nice firm grip demonstrates confidence, and don’t forget to smile!

Playing the Name Game

If you are terrible at remembering names, here is an essential tool to help you remember: repeat it.

When you first introduce yourself with your name and a handshake, the person you are speaking to will most likely do the same.

Repeat the person’s name back to them by saying something like, “Hello, Janet, nice to meet you.” Doing so will help trigger your mind to remember the person’s name and avoid the awkwardness of having to ask for it again.

Remembering a person’s name immediately helps you establish a connection, and it makes them feel as though you have a genuine interest in who they are as an individual.

Ask Open-ended Questions

Asking open-ended questions helps create a sense of interest to the other person with whom you are trying to connect. You are there to meet people and gather information that can help you succeed in your industry; avoid asking closed questions.

People enjoy talking about themselves, and asking open-ended questions helps you discover who can help you achieve success.

Tell Your Story

Just as it is important for you to ask others about their story, don’t be afraid to talk about yourself. You don’t have to be too personal, and it’s best to stay away from anything negative. Share positive stories about who you are, why you are there, and where you are heading. People enjoy a good story, so don’t be afraid to share yours.