Four Tips for Better Networking
After attending a few business functions in the past couple of months, I see that few people are taking the opportunity to grow their contact base and network. I’ve even attended networking mixers where people did not bring their business cards or didn’t reciprocate when I handed them mine. Awkward! So with these experiences and the start to 2014, I thought I would share my four tips for better networking.
To expand on the points I mentioned in the video…
1. Always have a business card on you!
You never know who you will meet and where you might meet them. Tuck business cards into your purse, briefcase, wallet, car, gym bag and other things you carry so that if you happen to meet the one person who can help you get ahead in this world, you are not scribbling your information on a napkin. Or worse, you don’t exchange information at all.
STUDENTS: Set yourself and your personal brand apart by having contact cards made. Include your name, field of interest, and one or two ways to get in contact with you, including a social network, like Twitter. If you are a student-athlete, mention the sport you play or use graphics on the card to express this point. Vista Print is an affordable option. I like the designs available at MOO.com.
2. Be approachable and responsive at events.
If you are attending a business function or networking mixer, even a cocktail party, it’s time to be open to meeting new people. If you stand in the corner with your nose to your phone or speak only with your friends, you are missing out on the opportunity to expand and grow your network. What’s the point of attending a function in the first place? On that note, if someone is brave enough to walk up to you and introduce themselves, by all means, be friendly and welcoming, engage in conversation and exchange business cards. If you are the host of what you call a “networking mixer” it is your job to introduce guests to each other and help people work the room.
3. Listen up!
Your secret ingredient to being a top-notch networker is your listening skills. Develop the ability to listen to the person you’ve met and figure out what or who you have in common. Do you know someone who works at their company? Do you share the same love of the outdoors and hiking? Maybe they have a family and their kids go to the same school as yours. Maybe you are both UCSB Gauchos! Learning about your new contact will help you develop a better relationship with them and connect them to others in your network. The art of networking rests within the ability to make connections. If you approach people with the idea that you want to see what you can get out of them, you are not networking. If you recognize that your role is to connect people you know, you will be a very successful networker. The more you connect other people to each other, the more they will connect others to you. What you give, you will receive.
4. Connect online and follow up.
Once you’ve collected those cards, go home and jot down some notes. This will help you keep your memory in tact! What event did you meet at? What do you have in common? Was there a funny story you enjoyed? If you know who you want to connect them to, write their name down too. Figure out what social channel your new contact is on and connect. Follow up by introducing them to another person in your network and scheduling that coffee meeting you spoke about. Periodically going through your business cards will jog your memory of the people you know and set you up for success when you are out and about or at business-specific functions. Those notes you wrote on the cards will help you follow-up and nurture your relations.
STUDENTS: Your contact base may not be as large as a seasoned professional, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot play by these rules. At the next young executives gathering or a networking function, challenge yourself to meet five new people or ten new people, whatever you find reasonable for the event. Apply these tips and watch how fast your network grows.
And that’s four! Pretty easy to adopt and very effective tips for better networking. Remember, networking is not about you. It’s about helping connect the people you already know. This lands you a reputation as a good networker and that person who “knows everyone.” To grow in your career or expand your business, networking is an essential skill.
Now it’s time to challenge you. Take these four tips with you to your next business or networking function and let me know in the comments below how well it worked for you. Have a tip of your own? Leave a comment below and share with us! Besides, you never know who you might meet in the comment section. Think of it as digital networking.
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