Wednesday, January 16, 2008 at 12:26am by Site Administrator
Networking can open you up to new opportunities, relationships, and more. But you have to know what you’re doing, or your attempts may quickly become an exercise in futility. Follow these tips to sharpen your skills and make networking work for you.
Before you can become a better networker, you’ve got to master these essentials.
- Always introduce yourself: Don’t get caught up in a conversation and forget to tell someone who you are. Be sure to say your name clearly and offer a business card when appropriate.
- Shake hands: Create a physical connection and open yourself up with a handshake.
- Bring lots of business cards: Never network empty-handed. Always have something to give to others for them to remember you by.
- Outline your goals: Have a clear plan in sight for every event or contact, and you’ll be better prepared to reap success through networking.
- Be genuine: No one wants to talk to someone who presents themselves awkwardly. Be authentic, and people will trust you.
- Stay positive: Be an energizing force to those around you, and others will be attracted.
- Keep a generous mindset: Don’t go to a meeting thinking about what you want. Rather, think about how you can help others, and you’ll earn what you’re looking for.
Your Body Language
When you’re meeting with others, it’s important that you convey yourself in a friendly, but professional manner. Make sure you’re communicating the right message with these body language tips.
- Maintain good eye contact: This should go without saying, but be sure to look a person in the eye when you’re talking to them.
- Smile: You should always convey that you’re a positive person, so smile and be happy.
- Learn forward: You don’t need to get in someone’s face, but leaning slightly foward to get closer will show then you’re interested in what they have to say.
- Stand confidently: No one wants to network with a person who lacks confidence. Present yourself proudly by throwing your shoulders back and standing up tall.
- Walk like you know where you’re going: Walking around aimlessly will just make you look silly. Even if it’s just to the bar, make sure you look like you’re going somewhere.
Choosing Groups and Contacts
You can’t, and shouldn’t, attempt to join every group possible to talk to every person you possibly can. Rather, focus on the ones that matter using these tips.
- Define what you’re looking for: Do you want to attend meetings for pure networking, or would you like to learn and volunteer at the same time?
- Visit a variety of groups: When you’re just starting out or even if you’re shaking up your networking routine, try out a number of different groups until you find a handful that work for you.
- Be strategic: Consider the value that each group brings, and only participate in those that offer something useful.
- Join a news group: Seek out a group that will keep you updated on the latest news and developments in your industry.
- Get targeted: Look for trade groups and meetings that have a narrow reach so you’ll be more likely to meet the right people.
Keep others engaged and interested by developing your conversational skills with these tips.
- Ask open-ended questions: Don’t ask questions that can be answered with yes or no-keep the conversation going with questions that beg more information.
- Have a concise description of yourself: Even if you’ve got your hands in a number of different industries and projects, make it easy for others to understand you in a nutshell. This will make it easier for them to refer you to others.
- Ask lots of questions: By asking questions, you’ll actively engage the person you’re talking to, and you just might learn something new.
- Be clear: Don’t make people read your mind. Ensure that the person you’re talking to knows exactly what you do and what you want from a relationship with them. Otherwise, they aren’t likely to help you.
- Start small: Discuss the event’s turnout or current events, and move on to more interesting topics once you’ve broken the ice.
Once you’ve made inital contact, use these tips to forge strong relationships with your new networking partners.
- Make good: If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Whether it’s a referral, phone call, or favor, your actions reflect your strength as a networking contact.
- Always follow up: When you meet someone that can be a valuable networking resource, give them a call and express how much you enjoyed meeting them. This will give you an opportunity to further develop your relationship and discuss ideas that you may not have thought of in your initial meeting.
- Find common ground: Forge a relationship through something you have in common, whether it’s personal or professional, to stay visible.
- Offer something: Give people something they want, whether it’s an idea, contact, or other resource, to stay visible and helpful.
- Share your contacts: Become a networking node by introducing two people who can benefit from each other, and you’ll be able to both reconnect with them and deepen your relationship at the same time.
- Focus on quality over quantity: Don’t worry about talking to everyone in the room. Rather, seek to build relationships with the people who have something of value to offer.
- Go slowly: Don’t force your relationship to move too quickly. Get to know your contacts before asking them for huge favors.
- Offer introductions: Flatter your networking friends by taking the time to introduce them to a group of people.
- Form an inner circle: Once you’ve found a number of contacts, determine your inner circle and work to cultivate relationships and ask for referrals from these people more than anyone else.
- Find the right person: Your intial contact isn’t always the right person for what you want. Don’t be shy about asking them to introduce you to someone more appropriate.
Much of networking takes place with people you don’t know too well, but strong relationships can be built upon with people you already know. Use these tips to help build your network through those that are already close by.
- Go to company events: You may not be crazy about golfing, but participating in your organization’s annual tournament can give you time to socialize one on one with people you may not have considered networking with.
- Seek out a mentor: Find an experienced friend within your company to help you build relationships and meet new people.
- Start a happy hour group: By organizing social events like happy hour outings, you’ll have a chance to connect with others in a relaxed setting.
- Organize a company picnic: Create an internal networking event with your coworkers and encourage everyone to invite their favorite clients and other contacts.
Networking is a little daunting for introverts, but these tips are designed to make you feel a bit more relaxed at networking events.
- Be a volunteer: Give yourself an official reason to be at an event as well as something to do by signing up to help out.
- Dress comfortably: Wear something that makes you feel good about yourself to boost your confidence.
- Call when your energy is highest: Save conversations for when you’re more upbeat.
- Show up early: Networking is often intimidating because there are just so many people, but if you get there earlier, you’ll be able to chat with just a few people in a more intimate setting.
- Remind yourself of your worth: Think of the people who aren’t as capable and talented as you are that are mingling and making connections with the contacts you should be working with, and use this competitive ammunition to motivate yourself.
- Bring a friend: If you can’t face the crowd by yourself, bring a friend from your industry and work the room together.
- Go to events with a purpose: Events that are purely based around conversation can be intimidating, so go to gatherings like seminars, interactive classes, and workshops.
- Know what to say: Create conversations in your mind and think of key points to bring up to help train your brain and calm your nerves.
- Take a break: If you’re attending a long networking event or have plans for both the day and evening, make sure you take some time to yourself so that you can recharge.
- Go one step at a time: You’re not going to become a master networker overnight, so don’t try to be. Focus on baby steps to ramp up your networking experience.
Use these methods to find new people to network with.
- Stand close to the entrance: Make small talk with new arrivals while they’re alone and looking for someone to talk to.
- Pick a nametag: Stop by the registration table to see who will be attending, and if you see someone you’d really like to speak with, ask if you can put a note on their name tag to ask them to find you.
- Seek out loners: Open up the shy and nervous types to get quality one-on-one networking.
- Hang out near the grub: People are generally accessible around food and often linger near the food table, so seek out new contacts in this area. You can even use food conversation as an opener.
- Diversify: Investors do it and so should you. Speak to a variety of different people to improve the quality of your contacts.
- Don’t sell at meetings: Selling your services at a meeting is generally inappropriate and usually a turnoff. Instead, focus on developing relationships and schedule a time to get together later, at which point it will be appropriate to sell.
- Differentiate yourself: Stand out from the crowd so the people you connect with will remember you after the event.
- Stay active: Don’t stay too long in one place. Keep moving to meet lots of people.
Take your networking efforts online with these tips.
- Keep an updated profile: Make sureyou’re offering the right impression about yourself by keeping information current.
- Avoid inappropriate material: Don’t post photos of you and your drinking buddies in a place where networking and business contacts can see them.
- Keep a moderate number of contacts: Be aware of the number of contacts on your profile. Too many will make prospective associates wonder how they’ll fit in, while too few will make you seem like you’re not connected enough.
- Be connected to appropriate people: Make sure you’ve got your bases covered where contacts are concerned. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, you should be connected with venues, florists, dress makers, and others in the wedding industry.
- Check in with school: Check out your alumni organization’s website to see if they have an online community.
- Find an industry-specific community: Build higher quality contacts by joining a group specifically made for people like you.
Keep things going with these follow-up tips.
- Say something interesting: Don’t just send a generic email to everyone you meet. Bring up something you discussed or share an anectode instead.
- Make future plans: Following up is useless unless you have a clear plan for how you’ll help each other or build your relationship in the future.
- Follow up quickly: Don’t let too much time lapse between your meeting and follow up, or your contact just might forget about you.
- Call just to say hi: If someone pops into your head for some reason, call and say hello, even if you don’t have an agenda.
Once you’ve got strong networking relationships in place, take advantage of them using these tips.
- Don’t wait until the last minute: Make sure you’ve built relationships before you actually need them. People will be turned off if you’re desperate and have nothing to offer.
- Reciprocate: If you’ve helped someone in the past, don’t be shy about asking for their help in return.
- Don’t be selfish: You shouldn’t always be the one looking for a favor in the relationship. Offer to do something for your contacts once in a while.
- Ask for advice, not favors: Go for the soft sell. If you’re looking for a job, ask for their opinion on how to get the job you want instead of asking them who they know that would like to hire you.
These are just a few ways you can use business cards more effectively when networking.
- Make notes: When you receive a person’s business card, make notes on it about follow up items, or just items you’d like to remember.
- Never deal out cards impersonally: Always wait until it’s appropriate to hand a business card to a contact and avoid giving them out before you’ve even started making conversation.
- Get creative: Business cards are generally boring and don’t spark a second thought. Make your business card interesting with an engaging design, and contacts may be more receptive to remembering you and giving you a call.
- Carry them everywhere: You never know when a networking opportunity will pop up, so always be prepared.
- Be generous: Give out two cards at a time-one for your new associate to keep, and one to pass along to someone you should get to know.
Take networking to the next level with these tips.
- Be a leader: Hold a visible position within a group so you’ll be more noticed and respected.
- Become a resource: Make yourself knowledgeable in your industry, and other people will come to you for advice, ideas, and connections, which will strengthen your relationships and make you more visible.
- Go low tech: Email isn’t always the best way to communicate. Pick up the phone, send a handwritten note, or arrange for a face to face meeting, and your message will come across stronger.
- Create a newsletter: Keep your contacts updated on new developments in your professional and personal life with a newsletter on a yearly or quarterly basis.
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