What’s your best networking tool?

You might think it is a glitzy card or a cute elevator pitch. These are great but in my opinion your best tool to opening the door to genuine conversation and networking is a warm smile.

As I walked the streets and waited in line to take in the Guinness Tour on a recent trip to Dublin I did some people watching and experimenting. Why is no one smiling? We are all about to go on a brewery tour and we are in Dublin and the sun is shining. Will I look like a mental case if I smile? Will I be happier if I smile? Will it get reflected back? Are these people happy? Has someone studied this officially? Are there places where smiling is bad form or forbidden? Do I just feel freer to smile now that I am an older woman and it won’t be taken the wrong way?

I mentioned these thoughts to my daughter who has covered a little more of the world than I have. She said that when she was in Argentina part of her instruction was that she shouldn’t smile as it could be taken as an invitation. I’m not sure if they said what it would be an invitation to, but I agree that a smile could be taken as an invitation. Did the males get the same instruction? It is sad that we feel we have to fear that a smile will bring unwanted attention. Is it a societal more to look sad so we will be “normal”” and unapproachable? Does it save time? Is that the kind of time we need to save?

When I was younger people were always imploring me to smile. My husband is always trying to get me to smile for pictures I don’t want taken of me. So I am guilty of not always being a happy face. And some of that not smiling may have come from fear of being taken the wrong way or having to engage. (Not a problem for me now days – bring on the conversations with strangers). Contrary to all those people who seemed to feel it was OK for them to tell me to smile, I won’t tell you to smile but I will invite you to think about what doors it could open.

When you are networking your goal is to GET invitations to engage and communicate. And if a simple smile is all it takes then why not? Unless you are afraid of what comes next. If you are scared stiff at networking events try a warm smile next time as a part of your introduction. At least in the US you will appear more relaxed and confident, ready to learn what others are about which is the key to successful networking.