11.04.2009

Fostering Relationships: The S.M.I.L.E. Formula to Networking Success

There are many times when leaders (especially younger, student leaders) are called to host events, attend events or otherwise be in potentially uncomfortable or "new and different" social situations where you are seen as the leaders of the room. In these situations, it is important to remember that you can make or break the situation. Ie - if you look bored, disengaged, stressed, etc. - these body langauge signals are read by and mirrored by a large portion of the group. However, if you look, feel and act energized, engaged, joyful and excited - again these signals are picked up and mirrored.

Therefore, in order to remember how to maximize these opportunities, remember to S.M.I.L.E.:

S - Socialize...

...with as many different people in the room as possible from as many different groupings as possible. These groupings may include age, profession, school, how well you know them, etc. It is important to look and be active, moving and welcoming to all. It is also vital that you not look like you are showing favortism to any one person or group.

(Student elected leaders - your natural inclination in situations like this will be to hang out with your safe and comfortable friends on your officer team. Avoid this. Set a 10-feet rule and try to stay at least 10-feet from the other members of your team. This will be a way to ensure you are spending your time with the students/parents/teachers and not just your friends.)

M - Model...

...what a gracious, friendly and excited leader should look, feel and be like. Even if you don't feel like it, fake it until you find it. You are the leader in the room. Your presence is felt in a large way. Make it a good one. One that makes people feel glad they chose to come to your event, meeting, etc.

I - Interested/Interesting

This double "I" is so important. The first I is Interested. As you work the room and make people feel at home, be interested in what is going on with them. Have a list of standard questions you are going to ask people. If you need help with this, visit this post. Also, be interested in terms of their needs. Is the room hot/cold? Do they have everything they need for the purpose of the event (paper, pen, drink, food, place to sit, etc.)?

The second "I" is to be Interesting. This means when they ask you questions or you have an opportunity to share, have something interesting to say. Be knowledgable about your organization, the event, yourself, etc. The point here is not to get the attention on you ("The best conversationalists actually say the least." Dale Carnegie), but when the attention does fall on you, be worth listening to.

L - Laugh

The best way to lift a room and get people ready for a great event, meeting, etc. is to look and feel in a good mood. Throw a smile on your face (you will look better) and remember to have fun. Even the most serious meetings and events need a foundation of humor, laughter and positive emotion to take the edge off of the room and the people in it. You will also find that if you laugh and enjoy yourself, your stress will turn into positive stress and you will actually enjoy yourself more. This is especialy true when something goes wrong (which it always will.) Remember this phrase: take your job serious, but not yourself.

E - Energy

I have personally attended or spoken at thousands of meetings and events. The number one strategy I use to help influence the mood and feel of the room is to express energy in my body language. Walk fast. Lean forward when people talk. Ask questions. Respond in a positive manner to questions. A week after your event, the majority of the people at your event will have forgotten what was said or what they ate, but most of them will remember how they felt when they were around you. Lift their spirits by having your energy and engagement high. (Here are a few tips from one of my favorite bloggers on the right ways to find and maintain energy.)


1 comment:

Debra said...

Love it! I am going to share this with my students and our regional officers.