With the increasing importance of online social media in the business world, I think we sometimes forget about the original social network: humans, gathered in the same physical space, talking. There’s still no substitute for chamber of commerce meetings, in-person conferences, and other forms of actual human interaction.
But with so many other communication options available to us, I think our analog networking skills sometimes get a bit rusty. So I’ve put together my favorite tips for networking the old-fashioned way. I hope you find them helpful.
- Listen. Of course you want to get your name and your story out. We get it. But remember, the person you’re talking to also has a story. Let them tell it. You may find that listening is more effective than talking.
- Take your time. It’s better to leave an event with a handful of new relationships rather than a multitude of forgotten conversations. Slow down. Choose quality over quantity.
- Hone your elevator speech. The first few seconds of the conversation are key. You need to inform, engage, and inspire the listener to ask for more information.
- Make eye contact. When you meet with someone, show them that you are completely engaged. Scouring the room for your next victim sends the wrong message
- Follow up. Make sure your great networking skills aren’t forgotten – find a reason to follow up. Send some helpful information, a link to a relevant website, or just a simple thank you. The follow-up is often more important than the initial contact.
- Be present. I’ve noticed more and more people using in-person events simply to exchange electronic contact information. This is a wasted opportunity. An in-person meeting is a rare opportunity to make a much greater impact than is possible with LinkedIn or Facebook. Use it.
- Connect electronically before you meet in person. I’ve found that it can be helpful to make a quick electronic contact before the in-person event. Your meeting will be even more effective if people are expecting you.
- Don’t be a wallflower. It doesn’t do any good to attend a networking event if you don’t engage. Be assertive and confident. Initiate contact.
- Ask the right questions. Questions are powerful. They demand a response and create engagement. Asking the right questions can go far in establishing a relationship.
- Don’t sell. Networking events are not the time to sell, particularly to people you don’t know. It’s the quickest turn-off there is. If you can inform a new person what you do, that’s success. Just plant the seed.
Networking is about creating tomorrow’s opportunities, not solving today’s problems. And even though we have more communication options than ever, an in-person meeting still rises above them all. If you’re looking for an additional resource on effective networking, I’ve found Harvey Mackay’s Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty to be one of the best.
How do you maximize your networking effectiveness? Please share below.