Image: Townsville Chamber Image: Townsville Chamber

When it comes to networking, the little things add up. Repetition produces results—especially when building your referral networking business.

Because the little things do add up, below are some simple things for you to consider regarding your attitude, body language, and congruence. This will help you determine whether or not people perceive you as approachable or alienating. You may be sending unconscious signals to others when you’re networking that will directly affect the number of referrals you receive and the number of referral partners you make.

Approachable Behaviors:

  1. Positive attitude—Smile, laugh, and look like you are a pleasant person to talk to. Although this seems ridiculously simple, you’d be surprised how many people forget it and therefore don’t practice it.
  2. Open body language—In the book Networking Like a Pro I talk about positioning when a person is conversing with others. In there, I refer to “Closed Two’s” and “Closed Three’s” as opposed to “Open Two’s” and “Open Three’s.” In short, if you are in a conversation with others, make sure your open stance allows for others who walk past you to join the conversation easily. Otherwise, they might not see you as approachable now…or ever.
  3. Congruence—Conduct yourself as if every person you meet is the host of that particular networking event. If you were at someone’s party, you’d go above and beyond the norm to make them feel good about themselves and the party…wouldn’t you? You attended the networking event to make new friends and deepen relationships with people you already know, right? Then it might be appropriate to act like it.
Alienating Behaviors:
  1. Negative attitude—No one likes a complainer! When attending networking events, please leave your own problems at the door. This is true for both your conscious signals as well as your unconscious signals. For example, rambling on about your rough personal or professional life is off-putting to a future referral partner. Listening to challenges in your marriage relationship or that your boss has favorites in the office are not the reasons why people attend networking events. If you’re down, don’t bring other people down. They might avoid you at the next networking event, and the next, and the next.
  2. Closed-off body language—As just mentioned, in the discussion about Closed Two’s and Closed Three’s, it is possible to alienate people who might want to learn more about you at a networking function simply by standing in a “closed-off manner.” Your stance means a lott in your approachability and allows others who walk past you to join the conversation easily. If you have a scowl on your face and your arms crossed over your chest, others will likely move on to someone more welcoming.
  3. Incongruence—Inconsistency between what you say and what you do makes a huge difference in people’s perception of whether or not you are approachable or alienating. If they see regular inconsistencies, they may believe you are insincere and will regard what you say with skepticism.
So how can you be sure that people perceive you as approachable and not alienating?

Try bringing a trusted friend or referral partner with you to your next networking event. Observe each other’s body language, tone of voice, and words. Then exchange constructive feedback privately after the event, with the intent of helping each other become better networkers.

By Dr. Ivan Misner

Called the "father of modern networking" by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author. He is the Founder of BNI, the world's largest business networking organization. His newest book, on networking and behavioral styles can be viewed at Dr. Misner is also the Sr. Partner for the Referral Institute, an international referral training company.