Tips for Blind Networkers Fall, 2022
Networking is your superpower!
It’s not just what we know, or who we know. It’s both!
Never let shyness or blindness stand in the way of your success.
Networking helps us meet our personal and professional goals, and the friendships we find through networking make life infinitely more meaningful and fun. Remember, strangers are just people we haven’t met yet. As Blind and Low vision networkers, we can successfully connect with the people we want to meet when we apply unique “blindness nuances” of networking. Follow these tips from Blind Savvy USA coach, Eileen Rivera Ley, and make your next networking opportunity great!
Plan ahead and set goals —
Perhaps, speak with the host to see who is expected. Ask if there’s anyone you should meet. You may even be able to request a guest list in advance as a “reasonable accommodation”. Why did you come? You might want to meet 5 people in the first hour. Or, you might decide to exchange contact info with 3 new people.
Plan your introduction and talking points–
What fun and interesting topics might you discuss? Read books, listen to blogs, and keep up with current events. NFB Newsline is a valuable tool for savvy networkers since you can choose from hundreds of daily newspapers and magazines to read. Best of all, this resource is completely free.
Bring crisp, clean business cards and learn to share your contact card via airdrop—
Have an organized way to keep the contacts you receive apart from the ones you are handing out.
Look your best. Get noticed for all the right reasons–
Blind people have an advantage over cited networkers. We are very noticeable. 95% of the people in the room will be absolutely forgettable. We will not. We have control over our image. Take time to groom and dress well. Choose an outfit with pockets so you can carry only the essentials. This way, you can leave your coat, backpack and purse behind. They only slow you down and add clutter. Make sure your cane is clean and bright or that your dog guide is smelling sweet as well. Use a lint brush to be sure your outfit is free of lint or pet hair. It is all part of your professional image.
Smile, be warm, friendly and interested in new people–
It’s incredibly tempting to go find the person you know best and clean to them throughout the event. But the goal of a networking event is to broaden your circle. You’re doing yourself and your friends a favor because by the end of the event more people will know one another. The best conversationalists are also the best listeners. Ask good, open-ended questions, and listen well. Answer questions with more than a single word but don’t talk too much. Follow the one-minute rule. If you’ve been talking for more than 1 minute, ask a question instead.
It’s not about the food it’s the fellowship—
Don’t head to the Food first. The smart networkers know that food comes later, connections come first while guests are fresh and ready to meet new people. I suggest you pick up a beverage, even if it’s water just to keep your hands from fidgeting. hold the glass in your left hand so that you’re always ready to greet someone with a warm friendly handshake (when that comes back into fashion).
I suggest parking your cane technique. Not at the corner, but in the crook of your arm. Don’t play with your cane while in public or use it as a barrier between you and others. Keep it to the side as part of your overall professional savvy image.
Manage questions about blindness gracefully—
Usually sad, personal, medical topics are not appropriate for a first-time meeting. When we allow others to talk only about our blindness for too long, we may get stuck there and miss the opportunity to build connections with others. Practice graceful ways to transition into topics which show your many interests and abilities.
Do Follow up and reconnect—
Once you do the hard work of mingling, follow up and connect via LinkedIn or email. Don’t drop the ball or miss great opportunities by failing to reconnect with the contacts you make.
Of course, there is much more to learn about enhancing your professional image and building your network. You need to learn: