How To Supercharge Your Networking Skills
“Networking is about making meaningful, lasting connections that lead to one-to-one relationships.”-Les Garnas
I recently had a friend ask for me some tips for successful networking and it inspired me to write this post. Networking is key when it comes to business. But not everyone is comfortable putting themselves out there– and that is okay. Just like everything else in life, the things that make us uncomfortable and take us out of our comfort zone are the things that ultimately lead to our growth. Here are some tips for anybody that is new to networking or just looking to put themselves back out there!
Do Your Research. If you are going to an event for the first time, take some time to do a little background research on the organization. You might be surprised to learn that you actually know someone on the board, or you might have a friend (or a friend of a friend) that is a part of the organization. Google is your friend and knowledge is key.
Be Confident. Smile when you walk into a room and always look approachable. Make sure you are comfortable with what you are wearing and that you are presenting your best possible self. If you feel comfortable in your own skin, you will radiate confidence and credibility.
Start Small. If I am walking into a room where I don’t know anyone and I am finding it hard to connect with someone right away, I will walk up to one person and introduce myself. I will start a conversation by asking “What brought you to this event?” or “How long have you been a part of this organization?” This approach usually gets the other person talking and allows us both to learn about each other and see if there are any similarities that we share.
Less is More. It is easy to recognize the people who start a conversation and then run off to the next person mid-sentence because they have to give their business card to everyone in the room. I never want to be that person. My motto is quality over quantity for most things in life-networking included. I would so much rather have 2-3 genuine conversations than to just pass my card to every possible person in the room.
Identify a Board Member. Try to locate a board member or someone in charge of the event and introduce yourself. Tell him or her that you are new and eager to learn more about the organization. Ask them if they can introduce you to some other people. Believe me, they want to retain every member that walks through the door. If you just tell them what you are looking to achieve, they should be more than willing to help you.
Listen More, Talk Less. We are all given one mouth and two ears for a reason. If you genuinely want to connect with people, ask them questions about themselves and be willing to really listen to what they have to say. Make an effort to remember something important about that person in case your paths cross again. Sales people love to talk and chances are if you are willing to listen, you will be able to form a stronger connection.
Always Have Your Business Cards. Please don’t be that person who lands a great contact only to discover you don’t have any business cards on hand. Not only do you look unprofessional and unprepared, but you could be passing up a huge opportunity if your contacts don’t have a way to get in touch with you.
Follow Up! If there is one thing that you take from this list of advice, please let it be this. IT IS ALL ABOUT THE FOLLOW UP. You can meet 10 – 15 people in any given night- but you will not be memorable if you do not follow up with your contacts. I like to follow up with both an email and a handwritten note. Since I am in the business of promotional products, often times, I will send a sample of one of my products in the mail as well. People love to be remembered and they love to feel important. Try to follow up first thing in the morning immediately following an event.
Networking can be intimidating at first, but just as with everything else in life- practice makes perfect. Once you get comfortable being around other people, it gets easier and easier. The first time I ever attended a networking event, I was beyond intimidated. However, it didn’t take long for me to feel like I was a part of a strong, welcoming community. People are typically willing to embrace genuine and sincere people. Put yourself out there and remember that all things come with time.