Learning how to network successfully can sound like an intimating thing to undertake, especially if you’re shy. But, it doesn’t have to cause stress. In fact, if approached with the right attitude, it can help you feel more comfortable the more you do it.
So, you’ve likely heard the old adage: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Well, it sure is! Learning how to network successfully effectively is even more relevant today as our world becomes more interconnected. Networking events are an opportunity to provide the foundations for long-term professional relationships with those in your industry.
Steps to Network Successfully
As stated before, networking events can be intimidating and overwhelming for many. They require you to be somewhat bold, to initiate conversation, to walk up to a total stranger and connect. If you take a step back, though, and approach it with a goal, things can take on a much more comfortable feel. For instance, the goal can be to make someone else feel comfortable by asking her about what she does. Generally, people enjoy talking about themselves. And, by being an active listener, meaning asking questions based on what the person is saying and giving verbal and non-verbal cues you are interested, you will put both of you at ease.
If you’re able to take advantage of events, you’ll likely benefit and learn to network successfully. They offer invaluable opportunities to make connections that may help you down the road. Take a deep breath, dress for success, and keep reading for tips on how to make the most out of your next networking event.
Prepare your pitch
You are your own best salesman. Say your first and last name loud and clear and prepare a short introduction about your interests and experience to break the ice. Throw in something unique or unexpected about yourself so that you will be remembered. Don’t forget the firm (but not bone-crushing) handshake.
As tempting as it might be, leave your phone and other devices in your bag (or even in the car). Even giving it a quick glance projects disinterest to everyone in the room. Networking is about making connections with people in real life. While your relationship may continue over cyberspace, this first interaction is the most important. Be sure you give the other person your full and undivided attention. That is the sign of being a true leader.
Take it easy on the hor d’oeuvres
If there’s food available, be sure to eat beforehand to avoid the temptation to ingest everything in sight. You’re there for the human connections, not the food. Keep your baggage light and make at least one hand available for greeting others and exchanging business cards.
Play the field
Don’t spend too much time on any one person. Susan Blond, President and CEA of her own PR company in New York, suggests spending two to three minutes with each individual. Once you’ve hit the mark, get the person’s contact information and politely excuse yourself to take care of something (like to top off your water). Be sure to always thank people and let them know you appreciated them taking the time to speak with you.
Always Follow Up
The next day, be sure to send a quick “thank you” e-mail to those with whom you spoke. Follow up on a topic from your discussion to emphasize that you value the person’s time and thoughts. Continue the connection by reaching out via social media. A person will recognize and appreciate that you took the time to remember him or her as an individual.