Sometimes starting conversations with strangers is easier if you have a familiar face by your side. Just be sure you make an effort to connect with other attendees rather than sitting in the corner chatting the whole time.
It’s hard to get what you want out of your networking endeavors if you don’t start with a clear agenda. Before attending meetings or events, take the time to determine what your goals are for the experience.
When attending an event, it’s important to have the perspective that your goal should be to help others first. Unfortunately, it’s an old cliché that is often left at the door. The next time you’re headed to a networking event, keep in mind the following simple, helpful rule: after it’s all said and done, you want to have earned the right, privilege, honor, and respect to be able to meet with them again. This is not a license to sell yourself, but an opportunity to build relationships.
Clearly, if you aren’t taking the time to meet and interact with others in your field, you’re likely missing out on valuable opportunities to find new partnerships, generate referrals, and even land clients and positions.
Meagan Feeser, director of PR and communications, used this insight to her advantage. “I met my now-boss three years ago at a monthly networking event she founded. When she needed help organizing the events six months down the line, I volunteered,” she says.“Based on that interaction and working together in that capacity, I was her first hire when she started her own advertising agency several months later.”
If you manage to get a conversation going, one of the most important things you’ll want to establish is that you know what you’re talking about, so be sure you do. “Know that person’s business, the competitors, the broader industry and you can engage with him in a way that shows you know what’s going on,” explains Ceniza-Levine. “You don’t want to be just an outsider looking in. Already understand the industry.”
Your mindset. The first thing that prevents us from building a strategic network is our mindset that networking is self-serving. And when we believe that any attempt to establish relationships is only for our benefit, we are less inclined to pursue these conversations. “It’s all about me and I’m uncomfortable asking for help.”
Many people don’t succeed at networking because they’re too shy or intimidated to even approach someone influential. Well, the well-worn phrases “you’ve got to be in to win it” and “no pain, no gain” apply here. If you’re polite, direct and accommodating, you should be able to have a short exchange.
Your network is bigger than you think it is. It includes all of your family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, colleagues, and even casual acquaintances. Start going through your social media accounts and address book and writing down names. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the list grows.
Networking is nothing more than getting to know people. Whether you realize it or not, you’re already networking every day and everywhere you go.
This networking tip is first because it truly is the key to success. “There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to networking,” says TopResume’s career advice expert, Amanda Augustine. “Different people are successful using different networking tactics.”
Asking questions is an art. Ask the wrong questions, and you can easily offend someone. But the reverse is also true; asking the right questions can build trust by opening lines of safe communication.
There is an effective interview tactic that also works very well in networking situations: To get someone excited about you, get them talking about themselves and their accomplishments first.
One of the most unappreciated networking skills that you can easily master is the ability to listen. To get people excited about you and your business, it seems counter-intuitive, but you need to do more listening and less talking.
Among all of the networking skills you can develop, the two most important, by far, are listening and asking questions. These two skills will impress new contacts and potential clients even more than your best business statistics.
Never attend a social or business event with the idea that it is all about you because it’s not. Networking is about relationship building, not making sales pitches where you force others to listen to you drone on about yourself.