Polish your networking skills and you’ll be able to identify potential collaborators, develop mutually beneficial relationships, generate leads, and expand your influence and reach.
Follow these 10 tips and you’ll be on your way to networking success.
1. Meet People Through Referrals
The best way to expand your network is through a referral from someone you know.
When a mutual friend or acquaintance can put in a good word for you, they provide assurance that you are trustworthy and reputable.
Likewise they will connect you with someone compatible and helpful.
2. Prepare Your Elevator Speech
An elevator speech is a quick explanation of who you are and what you do.
It should be so concise that you could deliver it in the time it takes you to ride in an elevator.
Rehearse it, but don’t memorise it word for word.
Adapt your ‘pitch’ depending on who you’re meeting and the environment.
3. Do Your Homework
Before a networking event, research the people who will be there.
If it’s an online event, see who has marked themselves as ‘attending’.
If it’s an in-person event and you don’t have access to the list, focus on the speakers and presenters.
When you know who you are likely to meet, you can better prepare what you’ll say and what you’d like to know about them.
4. Make a Good First Impression
Meet each person with a confident smile, steady eye contact, and a firm handshake.
Practice at home in front of a mirror if you’re nervous or unsure of how you come across to strangers.
Or use the video feature on your phone to record your greeting and giving your Elevator Speech.
Then watch the playback and see where you can improve.
5. Look for Common Interests
In the first few seconds, try to establish something you have in common.
Shared interests are more effective in building rapport than generic small talk.
6. Ask Questions and Listen Attentively
When networking, take the focus off yourself and place it firmly on the new people you’re meeting.
Your questions should be ‘open’, one ones that will attract a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Open-ended questions will get the other person speaking and will encourage discussion.
Practice active listening.
Summarise and paraphrase what the other person has said.
Really pay attention and nod your head in encouragement.
Remembering details about the other person will help you during follow-up conversations.
7. Use Social Media
Social media offers a variety of ways to network virtually.
Use professional sites like LinkedIn, Xing, Meetup or Bark to connect with business people online.
You can also use this platform to find offline networking events to attend.
Work your way towards a one-on-one meet up, either online or in person.
Also, be sure to check-out the new professional networking apps like IceBrekr
8. Keep Your Online Presence Up to Date
Make sure your online presence is up to date, as people you meet will search for you afterwards.
This includes all your social media profiles and anywhere else you can be found on the internet.
9. Be Proactive
You can make great connections by attending networking events, seeing who’s there, and meeting people by chance.
Its fine to meet people by chance, but it is much better to decide who you want to meet and then find opportunities to connect with them.
10. Get out There and Mix
Attend networking events and opportunities as frequently as your schedule will allow.
The more you get out there and mix, the more you’ll establish valuable connections.