Attending a networking opportunity and making the most of it are two very different things.
You score definite points for having the confidence to put yourself out there and showing up in the first place. But to make networking effective, you have to put some additional work in.
It shouldn’t be arduous or like pulling teeth, but there is a certain art to networking in the right way. You want to present yourself well and make valuable connections. After all, it never hurts to have contacts in all the right places.
So, here are my 5 best tips on how to make networking work for you.
1: Mix it up
Networking used to mean attending a designated event at a set time and meeting a set number of people. While those kinds of events are still useful for making local connections, your HR circle can be so much wider.
If you continue to frequent the same places over and over, then you will see the same people over and over. Yes, that is great for strengthening the connections with those select few, but it is also beneficial to get out and meet new people too. If you grow your circle then you can increase your influence too.
There are plenty of places you can network online too - forums, LinkedIn, Facebook, online groups, and so many more. The secret is to start up conversations just like you would if you met someone in person. You will be amazed by who you meet and connect with.
Mix it up - events, one to ones, and online. Variety is the spice of networking.
2: Be prepared
The boy scouts had it right with this motto. When it comes to networking you want to be prepared.
Decide what you want to achieve from the event or meeting. Do some research.
For events: Do you know who might be at the event? Have a look at their profile on Linked In. What connections do you have in common? Figuring this out will help you to dedicate your time when at the event to mix with the right people.
For face to face meetings: When did you last meet? What did you talk about?
Have your elevator pitch ready. If you are stumbling over your words when you meet someone new, then that is not a good look. Practise your elevator pitch so you can tell people exactly what you do, who you help and what you represent. It should just roll off your tongue naturally. Make sure that you speak with confidence, but not arrogance.
Have your business card at hand. Don’t be the person that is scribbling your contact details onto a serviette or rooting around trying to find a tatty business card somewhere lurking in your bag or wallet.
3: Challenge, assess and reassess
This one can sound quite hardcore, but the reality is you only have so much time to dedicate to networking. So you need to make the most of it.
First, set yourself a challenge – go to an event or meeting and have 3 things you want to achieve as a result. It might be meeting 3 new ideal contacts (you need to have talked, exchanged like-minded thoughts and shared contact details for each one to count). Or it might be generating fresh insight on a challenge you are facing – something that enables you to move forward.
Second, assess and reassess how influential an event or contact has been to your desired outcome. If you are looking to extend your network, an event that enables you to meet lots of new people is ideal. If you are looking to deepen your expertise, online research and meeting a small number of subject matter experts might be more suitable.
Doing this will help you to determine when to make time, and when to feel ok about declining or deferring an invitation to a later date. It will also ensure you are clear when you have dedicated your valuable time and walked away without any of tangible use to you.
4: Be genuine
Don't try to be the person you think people want you to be.
Simply be real and genuine - be you. Just make sure that it is a professional version of you, not the letting loose on Friday night version of you. Being you will allow you to make effective connections and leave the right impression with the people that you do meet.
5: Quality, not quantity - follow up with EVERYONE
The opportunity to make an impression is not over once you walk leave the room. That is when the relationship building begins. One of the key parts of networking that often gets forgotten is following up with the people you connected with after the event or meeting.
If you don't follow up, people will forget you. Not because you are forgettable, but that is just the way people’s minds work. They will probably file your business card away and then that will be the end of it. Unless of course they receive a great email or call from you shortly after to remind them who you are.
And remember – you are building your brand, and your reputation. If you say you are going to do something, then stand by it and follow through. This will build trust with the right people and prove you are professional.
Is networking a challenge for you? I can understand that - it can be hard to walk into a room full of strangers or find the energy to have a drink after work when you really want to get home and put your feet up. If you need some pointers and support to get it right, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. I might just help you to unlock the thing that is holding you back from making this work for you.
So pleased you found this page. Posts are added on a regular basis. Useful hints, tips and reflections on coaching, HR and being the best possible version of ourselves. Remember you can always contact me if you have a burning question