They say, there are only seven degrees of separation between us and any job or connection we ever endeavor to make. Therefore, making a conscious effort to consistently expand our network of connections is key.
Social networking aside, real-time networking is about putting yourself physically out there. But what to do once you are there?
Resist the urge to “cluster” or “put in an appearance” and leave after 15 minutes. Instead, embrace our top tips below and you’ll get more out of your future networking.
Understanding the Power of Networking
Networking is the single most effective means of meeting the greatest number of qualified individuals within the shortest amount of time while allowing you the opportunity to shake a warm hand, look into someone’s eyes, get your message out there and meet others you would never normally have the opportunity to meet.
Inherent in the word itself, networking is work, and, as with any interpersonal relationship, giving before receiving is not only gracious, but prudent.
If “90% of success is “showing up” this places a huge emphasis on that 10% of what we do once we are there; preparation is key. And remember, with all due respect … no one invites us anywhere because they think we look hungry and need to be fed!
Rather, we are invited for one of two reasons:
1. Someone wants to thank us for our business/prospective business or
2. Someone believes we have something to contribute … and it is our responsibility to contribute to the overall success of the event, while simultaneously positioning ourselves as a resource.
Top Networking Tips:
- Eat something first!
- Obtain a copy of the guest list and familiarize yourself with attendees’ names, and be sure to practice pronouncing names.
- Research internal company news, i.e. an impending merger/acquisition, new product release, etc.
- Wear appropriate attire (dark colors) and a jacket with large pockets (ladies) – one for incoming and one for outgoing cards.
- Have a “tag line” prepared specific to this group.
- Upon arrival, go to the restrooms – freshen, pop a breath mint and wash hands thoroughly to eliminate “clammy hands,” (the Kiss of Death!)
- Name badges belong (high) on your right side out of consideration for those trying to view, learn, remember and use your name.
- Make your entrance: Exude positive energy! Remember, we as human beings are naturally drawn toward positive energy, positive people! Let others feel your presence!
- Hold glasses in your LEFT hand (always with a cocktail napkin!) leaving your right hand free to shake hands.
- Approach singles, groups of 3’s or more.
- Invest 5-7 minutes per person and then move on.
- Disengage tactfully and provide an introduction before leaving (the proverbial pass-off!)
- Introduce yourself to senior level people you normally would not have the opportunity to meet.
- Actively engage in artful small talk and conversation skill, remembering your preparation and research for each conversation launch.
- Always ask before assuming someone wants your card, “May I offer you my card?” or “May I ask for your card?”
- Make personal notes about the other person to use in subsequent follow-up communication.
- Walk whomever you are speaking with not only to the door, but outside the door as they are leaving to take advantage of “real talk” to advance the relationship; thank them for attending.
After the Networking Event
Send a brief email note of thanks individually to the event organizer and your new contacts, and follow-up with a personal, hand-written note the next day or within 48 hours. Clearly, the longer you wait, the less impact the gesture holds. This provides you with an opportunity to get yourself, your company/brand in front of your target and leave yet another “impression.”
Lastly, always remember: repetition is reputation. Happy Networking!