Ditch the pitch and make the most of networking opportunities to build valuable relationships with these 12 simple steps that take the work out of networking.
Research proves that effective networking is essential to creating beneficial relationships, to succeeding in project delivery and landing your dream career move. Whether you loathe networking or love it, a few key tactics will go a long way to make the most of your opportunities.
Here are your 12 simple steps to take the work out of networking:
1. Research your event
Know everything first. Look at who the speakers are, what the topics will be, what type of audience the event will attract and who’s attending. Find these people online, on Linkedin and use the power of Google search to give you better insight. Having this information will help you to plan who to engage with, what ice-breakers to use, how you can contribute and bring value to the conversation.
2. Work your network
Begin before the time. Start by working your existing network and properly reconnect with those old friends, colleagues and acquaintances who are attending. It’s been proven that existing relationships are the most under-utilised source of knowledge and capital. Prioritise the people that you would most like to come away from the event having spoken to, strategise your approach and arrange with them to set aside some time.
3. Extend your influence
Connect your network. Pick two people who would benefit from knowing each other, facilitate their introduction and later follow-up with them to ensure the introduction was worthwhile. The more you do this, the more you will gain the respect and appreciation from those around you. People will remember your thoughtfulness and will be more inclined to help reciprocate when you need to be introduced to someone they know.
4. Manage your expectations
Remove the pressure. By targeting a goal of meeting ‘x’ number of people or handing out ‘y’ number of business cards, you are not approaching networking in the optimal way and will dilute the quality of your time spent. One great connection will trump 20 mediocre connections, so set yourself up for success by looking for just those one or two right people at the event to connect with.
5. Plan your ice-breakers
Rehearse your lines. Take some of the pressure off and work out some easy, open ended questions to help start a conversation. Business lives in relationships, so focus your attention by asking people “What kind of work do you do?” or “What do you love most about what you do?” or even “What’s your best networking advice?”. Thinking ahead is characteristic of a leader and will make improvised networking simpler.
6. Make your entrance
First impressions matter. Make sure you are composed, make sure that you smile and make sure that you always hold good eye-contact with the person you are speaking with. If you tend to be someone who is distracted easily, then face a wall as you’re having the conversation as it will help keep your eyes from wondering. Don’t limit yourself to only speaking with one or two people at an event, mingle around the room.
7. Ooze your self-confidence
Have an empowering routine. Before going anywhere where your networking game needs to be on-point, speak words of encouragement and affirmations to yourself that will stimulate your morale. Phrases like “I know what I am doing, I’ve prepared for this, I have confidence in myself. I am a leader and I will attract good people and make quality connections. I’m good at this, I’ve got this!”
8. Open-up your questions
Keep conversations flowing. Maintain the conversation dialogue naturally and effortlessly by ask questions that require a considered response from the person who you are speaking with. Don’t asked closed questions that lead to a straightforward ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Try asking people what their thoughts are on a particular subject, such as “What made you choose a particular speaker’s track?”.
9. Activate your listening
Successful networkers engage. Make the person you’re connecting with feel relaxed, acknowledged and appreciated by actively listening to what they are saying. Use their name during the conversation, repeat by summarising what they are saying, express openness by smiling and nodding. This will demonstrate that you are focused on them, that you are hearing them and that you are interested in what they are saying.
10. Share your tale
Include individual nuggets. Networking is an exchange of verbal and non-verbal communication and it’s important to build the relationship. Anchor your contributions with a personal story to make you more real, more personable and more memorable. For instance, if someone compliments you on your necklace, a great response would be to say ‘thank you’ and mention, for instance, that ‘the pendant used to be earrings that was a gift from my father’.
11. Keep your warmth
Don’t be sales focused. When we meet people for the first time, we evaluate them in terms of warmth and competence. People who create positive energy are achievers, and achievers are the ones that others want to mimic and be around. Try saying, “I’d really like to know more about the topic we just spoke about, let’s pick up this conversation next time we meet,” to remove the pressure of being too sales oriented.
12. Remember your promise!
Build from the introduction. Shortly after the event, follow up with your new connections. Email or telephone to reiterate that it was great to meet them and that there could be good synergy in working together. Remember to include something memorable that was said in the conversation, as personalising the communication is a great way to build a relationships, trust and rapport.
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