Networking is commonly considered one of the most important strategies for success, especially for entrepreneurs. That’s because networking allows you to meet new partners and employees, scout for new clients, and find mentors and peers to give you advice — all at the same time.
However, not all people are equally successful when trying to network. Some are superstars, making dozens of new connections at every event, while others have trouble doing anything other than blend in.
One of the keys to success is finding a way to stand out from the crowd. Even if you’re a natural wallflower, there are strategies you can utilize to do it.
Why Stand Out?
Why would you want to stand out from the crowd at a networking event?
Standing out means more people will be willing to talk to you. They’re going to approach you more often, more willing to engage in conversation. If you blend into the background, stuck in an isolated corner, nobody’s going to approach you, and you’ll have fewer opportunities to engage with others. Simply showing up, in this case, does nothing for you.
For the most part, standing out can also lead to warmer interactions. A noticeable, attention-grabbing quality or characteristic not only draws people in, but it can also serve as a talking point. Most of the time, your boldness will be inviting.
When you look and act uniquely, people will find it easier to remember you. They’ll remember your name, your business, and how they felt when they met you — all of which can benefit you in the long run.
How to Stand Out
These strategies can all help you make a bigger, bolder impression at a networking event:
Wear unique accessories.
Consider wearing unique gemstones or some other kind of rare accessory. You might be bound by the dress code of a given networking event, forced to wear a suit or casual business attire, but accessories give you the chance to personalize your look. Stay within the confines of the dress code, and don’t add anything too flashy or ostentatious; there’s such a thing as standing out too much.
Keep your body language open.
Pay close attention to your body language, and keep it as open as possible. If you’re looking down, with your arms folded, people will think you’re unapproachable. Instead, maintain an open, confident posture; keep your shoulders back and your back straight.
Avoid any digital devices.
Most people at a given networking event will spend at least a portion of their time on a smartphone, either to occupy their hands when they have no one to talk to or as a way to multitask. Either way, using a digital device makes you look unapproachable and could drive people away. Commit to not using any devices while you’re at the event. If you absolutely must, excuse yourself to use your device outside.
Position yourself strategically.
Review the main room of the networking event, and position yourself strategically. If you’re stuck in a corner or a densely populated area of the event, you’re going to blend into the woodwork. Instead, try to position yourself in a spot that’s visible from as much of the venue as possible, and don’t be afraid to move around.
Speak loudly and confidently.
You don’t want to yell to attract attention to yourself, but speaking loudly and confidently can help other people notice you (and ensure your conversational partners can understand you).
Vary your tone.
While you’re at it, make sure to vary your tone of voice. It makes you sound more dynamic and interesting, and it can help you add emphasis to your most important points. It’s also a good way to draw in people in your immediate vicinity.
The same is true for gesticulation: You don’t want to flap your arms around like a crazy person, but an assortment of well-timed gestures and body positioning techniques can make you much more interesting to the people around you — and distinguish you from other guests.
Tell funny or compelling anecdotes.
It’s easy to say you should be funny, but it’s much harder to pull that off naturally. Memorize a handful of jokes, and think up a few personal stories you can tell that people might enjoy. It’s a small step to make yourself more distinct (and likable, too).
Show your true personality.
Finally, don’t be afraid to be yourself. Instead of putting on airs or pretending to be a super polished professional, let your true personality shine.
If you follow these steps, you should have no trouble standing out from the crowd. It may take some practice to feel truly confident in your skin, but once you do, you’ll be practically unstoppable.