A modified version of this article was originally published on the MPI Toronto Chapter’s blog. To view the original post, please click here.
Ahhh, good ol’ networking. The necessary evil that puts us all out of our comfort zone, yet can be so rewarding. How can one master this “art” and use their networking skills effectively to advance themselves on multiple levels?
Some are better networkers than others, and although I am no expert, over my professional career I have been able to put into practice many tips and tricks that have proven to be successful.
Here’s how you can take your networking game to the next level:
STEP 1: FIND A COMMUNITY OR GROUP WITH SIMILAR INTERESTS
Do you have a hobby, want to learn something new, or enjoy doing a particular activity? Consider joining different groups and attending events or classes where you’ll meet people outside your inner circle. Meetup, as an example, is a huge community of people just like you who are looking to connect with others that share similar interests. Facebook groups are a great resource as well.
STEP 2: ATTEND EVENTS
Many of us are terrified of walking into a room full of strangers. Whether you are new in town, trying to grow your business or promoting your personal brand; relationship building is at the forefront of what we do as humans. Face to face interaction is so valuable, and you will never get better at networking if you don’t practice! Events are a networking staple, and a great way to step out of your comfort zone –– Eventbrite is a great source for searching a variety of events in your area.
STEP 3: SPARK CONVERSATIONS
Once at the event, don’t be “that person” who stands by the food or the bar by themselves and stays away from people. If you do this, how are you supposed to make connections?
If you do not know anyone, find commonalities to spark a conversation: Compliment someone’s outfit, crack a joke, or simply have the courage to approach that table and join the conversation by introducing yourself. Most people will gladly welcome you into their circle.
STEP 4: HAVE YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH READY
At any given time (networking event or not) be prepared to deliver your 30-60 second “elevator pitch” when someone asks you “What do you do?”
Ensure your messaging is clear and concise, and make yourself memorable. In return, ask questions and try to learn about the other person.
STEP 5: LISTEN
Make sure you are actively engaged in the conversations. No one wants to talk to someone who is not paying attention or constantly interrupting only to talk about themselves. Practice with these four listening tips:
- Repeat what they are saying in your head so you remember
- Ask for clarification or follow up questions
- Pause and let them finish before changing topics
- Look at them in the eyes. Don’t let your gaze be distracted by the environment.
STEP 6: DON’T BE AFRAID TO WALK AWAY
You had a great chat (or perhaps not so great) and you would like to move on to meet someone else – That is perfectly OK. Just because you connected with someone doesn’t mean you are married to them for the entire event duration. Find a polite way to excuse yourself and/or be upfront and let them know it was a pleasure meeting them, and that you are trying to meet some additional new faces throughout the event.
That being said, make sure you give everyone a chance. Just because they don’t “captivate” you in conversation immediately does not mean they are a waste of time. Everyone has their own story to tell.
STEP 7: CONNECT & FOLLOW UP
If you truly enjoyed the conversation and wish to continue the relationship, why not send that person an email thanking them for their time? You could also connect with them through social media and ask for a follow up get together at a later date.
BONUS TIPS FOR NETWORKING MORE EFFICIENTLY:
- If you make a great connection with one person, don’t be afraid to “buddy up” and ask them to introduce you to others in the room.
- If you have a hard time remembering names, don’t think about what you are going to say next when someone introduces themselves. Simply pause and carefully listen to their name, repeat it in your head a few times, and find additional ways of using it in conversation.
- Find something memorable about the people you meet and associate that to their face. If you ever encounter them in the future, you will be able to recall your previous interaction and you will look like a networking expert!
- Always go in with the intention of helping others. Asking people how you can help them will make them feel valued and they will be more likely to remember your interaction.
Networking is a skill that comes naturally to some and not to others, so I hope these tips will help guide you into becoming a better networker as you go on to make valuable connections of your own.
For a video version of this post, please click here.
Did I miss anything? What are some other networking tips that have worked for you? Comment below!