Don't waste time - how to network effectively
Are you new to networking? Or, do you attend events and feel like you don’t get much out of them? If I have learned one thing in my early career, it is that networking events are only valuable if you come prepared with a strategy. Here are 5 tips to be a more effective networker; because no one likes being set loose in a crowded room of professionals without a plan!
1. Be Interested in Stories
Everyone loves talking about themselves. So have a handful of questions ready to ask whoever you end up meeting. When people share their stories with you, they begin to trust you. And the whole purpose of networking is to build relationships with people that can help you reach your goals, right? So listen to their stories and you will be able to reconnect with them more easily down the road.
2. Avoid Talking Business
I attend a special event every month where the rule is: no talking business in the first hour. If you are caught breaking the rule, you have to buy a drink for the person you are talking to. I love that!! It gives you a strong opportunity to get to know people beyond their professional personality, which is really cool to me. This doesn’t mean you can’t ask what they do and dig deeper if it genuinely interests you. Just make sure your conversations are authentic!
3. Limit Yourself to One Glass
This goes without saying. The reason I feel the need to mention this is because you are there wearing a name tag that represents your company; so be a good representation. Nothing is worse than your boss finding out you were making a mockery of your employer OR seeing pictures on Facebook of you on round three. You are there to make professional connections, be sure not to forget that.
4. The 30 Minute Rule
This is a good rule of thumb when you are busy mingling. Oftentimes, I have found myself spending the entire networking session talking with one individual, which, when the conversation is flowing, isn’t necessarily a bad thing!! However, because time is so valuable at these events, I have started to try to limit my conversations to about half an hour. If I find a lot of value in speaking with the individual, I just make sure to let them know I would love to continue the conversation and connect with them (aka can I get your number…)!
5. Follow Up
This is arguably the most important step when networking. In my experience, I am much more likely to develop a professional relationship with someone if I connect with them within two days after the event. Whether it is sending InMail on LinkedIn or emailing them, I always tell them what I enjoyed learning about them or what part of our conversation was interesting to me. By doing that, you are not only giving them the opportunity to remember who you are, but you are also showing them you were engaged in the conversation and weren’t just looking to get another business card.
Did I miss anything? What are some steps that are key for you in your networking efforts?