Despite the dominance of social media, nothing replaces in-person networking. You can’t share a firm handshake or see a sincere smile flashed in response on social media. But effective networking requires work. Here are 10 tips intended to make your networking as effective as can be.
BE GENUINE. Remember, your goal is to build relationships that will be helpful to both you and those with whom you network. That requires honesty, and a willingness to give as well as to receive.
BE STRATEGIC. When you select groups for your networking, evaluate the tone and attitude of the group. Is it focused on making business connections or is there a greater focus on learning, volunteering, or something tangential? Are the people supportive of each other? Try to visit a couple of times before committing to join. On an individual level, remember it is not about the number of contacts; it is about making real connections with people you can help, and who can help you.
BE ARTICULATE. Have an ‘elevator speech’ that describes what you do, what you’re looking for, and what you can offer in the time it takes for an average elevator ride. Have an answer to the question you’re hoping to hear: “What can I do to help you?” Have a clear understanding of what you do and why, for whom, and what makes your doing it special or different from others doing the same thing.
BE A GOOD LISTENER. There’s a saying that God gave us two ears and one mouth because we should listen twice as much as we talk.
BE INTERESTING. That may seem easier said than done, but it’s less difficult that you may think. People are more likely to think of you as “interesting” when you are interested in them. Ask open-ended questions rather than those that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Ask questions that start with the ‘Five Ws’ and an ‘H’: Who, what, when, where, why and how.
BE MOBILE. At networking events, keep mingling. Your goal is to make new contacts so don’t spend too much time with any one person. Saying something like, “It’s been great to meet you but I’d like to say hello to a few others before the event is over. You have my card and I have yours; let’s stay in touch” is a simple, genuine, professional way to move on.
BE A RELATIONSHIP BUILDER. Be willing to give – of your time, talent, advice, and referrals. Doing so will make others more willing to help you. Stay in touch with new contacts. Invite them to join your LinkedIn community. Send them articles that might be useful to them or their business.
BE A VOLUNTEER. Volunteer for a position in your networking group or a related organization that puts your talents and abilities to their best use. It is a great way to increase your visibility.
BE DEPENDABLE. Follow up with your new contacts, follow through quickly on referrals, keep your commitments to volunteer, offer referrals of your own.
BE PERSISTENT. Many experts recommend spending the equivalent of a full business day networking each week. Treat it like any regular business function like paying the bills, ordering products, or taking inventory. It is just as, if not more, important!
For more information on successful networking and growing your business contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.