When was the last time you went to a face-to-face networking event? Are you still in contact with any new person you met there? Have you benefited from a new relationship you built AND have they?
Most people who attend networking events leave saying something like:
- “That was a waste of time.”
- “I didn’t meet people who were interested in me.”
- “It’s too awkward for me to meet strangers.”
Does that sound like you?
Before we go further, let’s review the definition of networking: “Connecting to build two-way relationships for the long term.” Anything short of that (one-way, short-term, in-and-out) is called USING. Not good! And that’s why networking has a bad reputation.
After helping hundreds of people with “how to network,” I can report many people have said that simply learning a few simple tricks helped them not only enjoy networking, but they have built relationships that have led to great results.
Here are your simple tricks:
- Have your hands free so you can shake hands, exchange business cards, and take notes.
- Arrive early; be the first to meet many great people. They’ll be fresh and you’ll maximize the time before the dinner, speech, or presentation begins.
- Have plenty of business cards. There is no excuse for forgetting them. None. If you are unemployed or job-seeking while employed, make (and take!) personal cards.
- Listen more than you talk. Prepare three open-ended questions for people you meet. Have a little notepad to write their answers down for later, since writing on the back of business cards is rude in many cultures. Here are some sample questions:
How did you get into the field you are in?
What excites you about what you do?
What’s next for you?
- Don’t go to an event if you’re not going to do precision follow-up. As soon as possible, get to your computer, enter their contact information, and send them an e-mail. Try to set up a phone meeting or meet them face-to-face for a lengthier discussion.
- LinkedIn: Yes, you can connect with them. However, include a personal note in the LinkedIn invitation. Example: “It was great meeting you last night at the XYZ event and I look forward to talking with you further. I will send you an e-mail to arrange a meeting. Thank you.”
- Rule for the follow up meeting: If you invite someone to coffee, lunch or dinner, you pay! Just know that it’s okay to offer to visit them in their office, too.
- At a face-to-face event, work the room. Peel away from friends and don’t spend too much time with one new person. How do you get out of a discussion to move around? “Brian, it was a pleasure meeting you; I’m going to go work the room.”
- A great question to ask everybody is: “What brings you here? What are you looking for?” See if you can help them.
- LONG term. The only way you can stay in touch long term is to put follow up time in your calendar to keep them posted, and meet with them. Remember, the definition of “networking?” You’re in this for the long term.
So, the next time you go to a networking event, try these tips… You’ll see a difference!