So I’ve been working on my network skills for about a year now. I’ve had college classes in sales that focused on networking and I’ve built my own LinkedIn contacts to 250+ from nothing as of last spring. I’ve had a lot of time to ponder the psychology of working a room, testing techniques myself and I’ve received input from professionals on their own tips. Here I’ve complied what I think are the most important take-aways, and if you agree please share this article to spread the love and comment below if you’d like to add to the list.
1) The Why. Why are you there? Why would someone want to talk with you? Are you trying to offer your services or knowledge to someone with the hopes of having a business arrangement? Answering those questions and believing in the answers in critical to success in networking. Just 2 nights ago I was at an event at OpenView, a Boston Venture Capitalist Firm, networking with people 2-3 times my age for TRA360 trying to find some common ground. On the surface, there I was a recent college grad, youngest person in the room and against the backdrop of CEO’s, CMO’s, CFO’s ect., I didn’t belong. For a moment, that cramped me up. There was a nervousness about me, and my confidence was like a boy on his first date. Had I bought into that creeping negativity, my time and energy would have been for waste. Negativity likes to strike at networking events, either before talking to people or in the midst of finding a flow maybe after a few unsuccessful tries. Knowing yourself, and truly accepting that you bring value is the key to understanding, regardless of the circumstances, that yes I belong, and yes everyone here is a real opportunity to get to know. That paradigm shift is tremendously effective.
2) Working the Room. Networking is about creating meaningful contacts. Just as running around throwing business cards at everyone is ineffective, so isn’t spending all your time with a small amount of people. Find that harmony that maximizes the effort of networking with the return of meaningful relationships. At the same time, be sure to learn from those you meet. I’ve increased my knowledge substantially just through small talk. It’s amazing how willing people are to share their knowledge, beliefs and theories. All you have to do is say hello!
3) Know where to go. All of the tips here are great on their own, but setting is a key element. Know where your target audience is going to be and meet them there. Two tools I’ve found that have been invaluable are Eventbrite and Greenhorn Connect, for those of us in the Boston Area. Those calenders of events are free, and so aren’t many of the ways of finding great events. Join emailing lists for networking groups that interest you so that you’re in the know. As the saying goes, fish where the fish are.
4) Fly solo. The worst thing to do at a networking event is to crowd with people you already know. Sure it’s always good to catch up, but make sure that familiarity doesn’t cloud the will to venture into the wilderness of meeting new people. I’ve been guilty of it myself, so if you find that you contacts are looking thin halfway into an event, this may be the culprit. Make a goal of meeting 5 new people every hour, or whatever metric you see fit. If you’re with someone who’s part of your team, split up strategically and cover twice the ground.
5) Follow up. As I mentioned earlier, networking is all about relationships. That goes for business as well. A million phone numbers does no good if you can’t recognize the face, with the same in return. You never know the outcome of a relationship 6 months, a year or even 10 years down the road. Make an effort to check in with old contacts and you’ll be glad you did.
Did I hit the nail on the head? Is there a good tip I left out? Let me know below!