Hopefully by now you have had the opportunity to read my article, “How to Network Like a Boss,” which broke down the essential elements behind networking, as well as how to make sure you network with a goal rather than blindly network. After writing that article, I received a series of emails asking if first impressions still mattered as much as they did in the past – especially in the context of networking.
Today’s more modern networking practices are a lot more casual than before; many organizations even hold networking events during happy hour, creating a very social atmosphere rather than the feeling of a business function. There are a lot of benefits in being social, as the point of networking is not to sell, but rather to create powerful and meaningful relationships which often first revolve around friendship.
The best way to network is to be yourself, so that you attract others who genuinely share your views and business strategies.
In networking events or just about anywhere else, first impressions do still make a difference. This also ties into one of my videos in the AMA series on Youtube about the power of owning a luxury or exotic car when it comes to networking.
Despite first impressions being real, the rules and what people look at have changed drastically. In the old days, a shiny pair of shoes, a suit, and a tie said a lot about you. Today, it doesn’t really mean much as you could work for a major retailer and simply care for your appearance.
While it is still important to look good, it certainly holds a very different meaning.
Back in the day, being a banker, broker, or realtor meant something, and required you to be an expert in your field and a well known figure in your community. So wearing a name tag and a nice suit would speak to your success without even having to have others ask about it.
However, today anyone can be a realtor, broker. or banker simply by having access to a computer – which means that most networking groups are filled with hungry suited people who pretend to want to make friends in order to gain business.
It’s now the complete opposite that seems to attract others – it’s no longer the suit but rather the jeans, and it’s not the shiny shoes but the watch. You see, most people at networking events go there because they are forced to one way or another; either because their boss made them or they have to do it in order to generate leads to fuel their income.
Very few people go to only mingle or enjoy themselves, which makes the guy that is casual get more attention than everyone else. This is partly because of 2 simple reasons:
1) Everyone wants to know why you are defying the rules and look like you don’t care.
While many may give off the vibe they are repulsed by the idea that someone didn’t dress appropriately for the event – they cannot stop but wonder who that person is that doesn’t care how others perceive them. This is partly because we deflect on others our own fears, and the biggest fear people have in social gatherings is the fear of not fitting in with anybody or any group.
2) Everyone wishes they were you.
This may seem shallow, but it is common knowledge that very few people love the work they do. Everyone wishes they could just be themselves rather than this person their job requires them to be. Everyone envies someone who doesn’t have to look or act the part but rather is free. This curiosity leads to more people getting to know you either because they think you are loaded, or they’re simply curious to know what you did.
Every networking group is different and the purpose behind each differs. However, the reality is you can’t stand out doing the same things everyone else is doing. You have to create conversation starters which often come from first impressions.
Back when I was a banker and I actually gave a shit to attend networking events, I would show up in a bright yellow Lamborghini and wear a gold Audemars Piguet. This simply crushed anyone else in the room acting like they were the person everyone ought to know, and the watch gave me individuality and character since everyone else was wearing a Rolex.
Most people didn’t know what watch I was wearing, but those that did immediately had something in common with me – their love of watches which led to getting to know one another which eventually led to doing business together.
Don’t forget, first impressions no longer come from having shinny shoes or a nice suit, but from your ability to differentiate yourself from everyone else in the room.