Business networking is the process of meeting others to exchange information, make new professional contacts, and develop helpful relationships. Networking is a word that strikes fear in the hearts of some – especially introverts. I have always done some networking here and there. However, I recently launched my own business, InfluenceHR Consulting, and networking efforts have kicked into high gear. I thought I would do a little research to educate myself and others about how to network most successfully.
Here are 7 tips to network for success:
Determine which events or groups would be most advantageous for you to visit.
You have a limited amount of time and energy so try to be strategic about where you network. Think about whom you’d like to meet and where they may congregate. Then, identify events or groups that would be most helpful for you to visit.
Have a goal in mind.
Next time you’re going to an event, ask yourself: “Whom do I want to meet, and why?” Maybe set a goal for the number of leads you’d like to collect – or people that you’d like to meet.
Have an elevator pitch.
You’ve probably been told time and time again about the importance of having a polished elevator pitch. This is essentially a concise explanation of your skills and work experience – what you do and why it matters.
Bring business cards.
There’s nothing worse than needing to scribble your contact information on a cocktail napkin, so come prepared with plenty of business cards.
Manage the conversation.
Most people start with, “What do you do?” This can be kind of boring so I’m sharing 4 F’s of networking to consider.
- From – Where are you from?
- Family – Tell me about your family?
- Funds – What do you do for work?
- Fun – What do you do for fun?
When the small talk is over, it’s easy for the conversation to dry up. You can avoid this by making them the topic of conversation and showing genuine interest in the other person. As a result, you will likely find talking points you can expand on.
Jot down some notes after each meaningful conversation. This will provide you with the information you need to follow up..
Practice active listening.
When we’re networking, we’re often so focused on what we are sharing that we don’t take the time to really listen to the other person. Practicing active listening is critical to networking effectively. This includes using your body language – eye contact, open posture, nodding, using small non-verbal cues to show attention – and paraphrasing occasionally to show understanding.
Follow up every time.
If you want to make a lasting impression, take the time to follow up with the people you meet. So how do you follow up effectively? First, send an email or LinkedIn message within 24 hours of meeting someone. This shows that you’re interested in keeping in touch. Secondly, invite the person you met to coffee or lunch to further connect. After that, you can stay in touch through email, social media, and/or future meetings.
Hopefully, incorporating these tips will help to ease your anxiety about networking. We should approach networking conversations as we would other interactions, making human, authentic connections with others.