Networking is a valuable skill that every professional, entry level or executive, should master. Meeting new people and forming authentic relationships is one of the easiest ways to market yourself and form connections with others who may one day become an asset to you. You simply never know who you are going to meet or what you can offer them or what they may know that can help you in your personal and professional journey.
Nowadays it’s not always only about what you know but also who you know. Having your name referred by other professionals helps support “brand you” which in turn can build your own clientele, making people more willing to work with you. With the growing use of technology, networking also does not have to be face to face. There are many different platforms you can use to communicate and build long term, useful relationships with other professionals long after you meet and connect with someone in person.
By forming these genuine relationships, their connections become your connections and your realm of influence begins to grow organically. Keep reading to learn a few of our tried and true tips and tricks for being a master networker at your next networking event.
1. Attend Relevant Events
If you never attend events to network, then your network suffers. The best way to meet people with like interests is to attend events catered to your interests or professional industry. You can search for these events in places such as Eventbrite, Meetup.com, within Facebook and LinkedIn groups. Even a quick Google search for local networking events happening in your area will offer several useful options.
2. Rule of 3
Make sure you have realistic expectations for what you hope to take away from the events. Part of networking means working the room however you don’t want to seem like your only goal is to collect as many business cards as possible. I would suggest setting a goal of connecting with at least three new connections. Business cards are expensive, and many people lose or throw them away anyway. Be selective about who you want to engage and connect with. Networking events are not a race.
3. Be Visible
Positioning at networking events is key. Do not position yourself in a corner where you are easily hidden or looked over. Position yourself in an area where you look confident and approachable. A good place to stand is by the bar. As people come to get drink refills, you are bound to meet multiple people.
4. Conversation & Communication
Networking is going to require you to talk. Participate and have great conversation. The conversation doesn’t have to be only about business. At all cost, avoid initiating a conversation with “so, what do you do?” Remember, people are more than just their occupation. With that in mind, you will find it a lot easier to get people to open up and also be more willing to talk. Find a common interest and relate to them in some aspect. Consider preparing a few icebreaker questions. Here are my top 3 go to’s:
- Start with a compliment
- Introduce yourself and ask how they found out about the event
- Choose a person who looks like they came alone and introduce yourself
Being a good listener is a rare but very important skill. People love to talk about themselves. I’ve always believed that you can learn so much more about a person by listening than talking. Be attentive. Be responsive. Take interest. Listen to learn and understand, don’t listen to respond.
6. Contribute to Your Network
Don’t be the person that only reaches out to your network when you need something but fails to contribute as well. If you have an opportunity to recommend a client to someone in your network do so and tell them, you sent them. Also, if it is something that you are able to contribute to, personally extend your assistance. It if is something that you can’t assist on offer a contact if you’re able to do so.
7. Stay in Touch
Follow up and follow through. Many people make these connections and never reconnect outside of the event. Don’t waste your time if you are not going to keep in touch. If you agree to link up outside of the event be sure to follow up to set up, your r next meet up. Also, always send a connection via LinkedIn or follow-up with a short email message.