As personal activities experience an upswing, experts recommend these strategies to brush up on your interpersonal skills. 

As employees return to the office, face-to-face networking is making a comeback. According to a recent survey, relationship building was cited as the primary goal for 41% of corporate events planned this year. 

In-person events lead to spontaneous meetings and organic connections that are often unlikely in the virtual environment, say Maindl's experts. Members of senior management are in the office to boost teamwork and morale, as are new-generation employees eager to learn, but the middle generation is usually missing, says Steven Maindl, CEO at Maindl. 

But how do you brush up on a set of skills that are unnatural for some and uncomfortable for others? Some ideas: 

Create icebreakers. 

Talk about your experience with the current situation to break the ice and gauge how the other person feels about face-to-face contact, experts say. Many employees aren't in the same headspace they once were, so make sure you understand new perspectives and boundaries.  For starters, you can ask your employees how they or their families have been affected by the pandemic. Be respectful and follow up as you see fit. 

Change your perspective. 

The term "networking" may sound intimidating or evoke unpleasant associations for some people. If you are one of those people, try to think of networking as a way to learn, have interesting conversations and contribute ideas.  Whether in person or virtually, networking is a two-way street.

Plan it and make networking a routine. 

Your interactions need to be genuine, casual and strategic at the same time, experts say. Write a short presentation to introduce yourself. For example, you can say, "I'm a manager of operations in marketing, making sure innovative companies have practical and agile plans to maximize profits." It's been a while since you've met in person, so you can even go a step further and hand out business cards at events. Ask for business cards in return, and don't forget to check in with your new contacts. 

Take advantage of office space. 

Take advantage of being back in an office. If you run into co-workers you don't know in the hallways or break room, you can talk to them, experts say. Another way to get to know people at your company is to attend meetings that don't require advance notice. Even if you don't have a formal meeting scheduled, you can expand your circle by scheduling lunch with as many people as possible. 

Attend conferences.

Conferences and in-person events are sure to come around soon. Attend an event with your colleagues where you can represent both your company and yourself. Events are once again taking place on a smaller scale, which gives you the opportunity to stand out from the crowd and make contacts more easily.


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