Networking can sometimes seem like a burdensome task filled with unrealistic expectations and anxiety-ridden over-thinking.
Let’s say you’re at an event, and Warren Buffet walks up to you and asks you to tell a little bit about yourself. Then he skims over the opportunities he is working on and asks if there is anything that sounds like a match—How would that make you feel?
And how would you spend the next 5-10 minutes you had with him (if you should be so lucky)?
Networking is about connecting with people on any number of levels. It’s about being filled with the excitement of the prospect of limitless possibilities and opportunities as your hand locks into the hand of another person at the first greeting.
How to Network Effectively
Now, you’re probably not going to meet Warren Buffet at your next event (if you do, please mention to him that I referenced him in my blog). However, your mindset should still be dialed into the notion ‘that something wonderful is about to happen’ when meeting that one new person. This should be your mindset whether it’s at the next conference, the next event or even at your next visit to your local Starbucks.
Learning how to network effectively is crucial to your success. When you know how to form deeper connections with those you meet, it will help you discover new opportunities, meet more people, and become more influential.
Here are 8 tips to make your next Networking experience a GREAT one:
1. Be Interest-ed in people and Listen
People actually have great stories. There is a lot to learn from their experiences and their journeys. Being interest-ed goes a lot further than being interest-ing. This is because the message that you’re sending is that you care about the other person. You’re communicating that you’re engaged and listening.
Everyone wants to be heard and feel relevant, right? Feeling important is one of our deepest needs as human beings. People will be turned off if your words and tone are purely about your own self-promotion. Learning how to network effectively means learning how to show the other person that you’re interested in them.
2. Show Enthusiasm
I want to connect with people who are excited about life and enthused about what they are doing on a day-to-day basis. Your conversations will go nowhere if your tone and body language suggests a lack of interest or motivation.
Want an easy way to convey enthusiasm? Smile. And smile often. Not only will this make you feel more engaged, it will also make the other person feel more enthusiastic as well.
3. Do you know What makes you Happy?
I have found that your enthusiasm can be tied to one simple question—-What makes me happy? I have conducted workshops where people are unable to articulate with any certainty what they really love doing—personally or professionally.
Without that self-knowledge and a plan, it’s hard to truly be excited about the present and the future. Not to mention, that lack of insight and direction will cause you to divert that energy and instead look back and regret things of the past—-and that truly is a waste of time.
Try to focus on the things that make you happy. Keep your mind on the things that inspire you. Doing this will put you in the right mindset.
4. How can I HELP?
When you enter into a networking opportunity, you should be thinking “how can I help this person?” Early in the conversation, you may think that there is not a direct match for your needs. However, by having a ‘pay it forward’ you may discover other opportunities.
While the other person may not be able to benefit you, they might be able to benefit someone else you know. Don’t overlook this. Part of learning how to network effectively is learning how to connect people to each other. You never know when this can benefit you later on.
When you focus on how you can help others, it will help to establish your reputation as a person of good judgement. You will be known as someone who knows how to bring the right people and pieces together. And this is how businesses become and remain successful—finding the right people with the right know-how at the right time.
In a healthy and balanced life, serving others is an important part of giving back. Inspiring, empowering or simply offering a helping hand to others is great for your sense of gratitude and overall well-being. And it’s simply wonderful to do nice things for people without expecting anything in return.
5. Don’t waste other people’s time
Your time is valuable and so is other’s people’s. During initial contact, don’t go down ‘roads to nowhere’ where there is no real point to your story. Don’t talk about negative situations or speak of people in a negative light. Keep it salient and succinct.
Don’t recite your resume, explain your complete business case or go into detail regarding complex business scenarios which require more attention than can be provided. Of course, there are exceptions, but your ultimate goal is to leave an impression with the person you are speaking with and have them wanting to know more. Providing the ‘more’ is the purpose of the follow-up meeting.
6. Ask questions
The best way to get to know people and discern potential opportunities is to ask questions. Thoughtful questions make you come across as knowledgeable with good reasoning qualities and allow others to participate without being perceived that they are being spoken ‘at’ rather than spoken ‘to’. Key information-sharing and connection follow-ups are more likely if fellow networkers deem the conversation to be 2-way in nature.
7. Connections Not Cards
When you’re learning how to network effectively, the goal is to meet people, establish a presence and make connections. It’s not about collecting the most business cards.
If you don’t create an impression of yourself in the other person’s mind, chances are your card will get tossed in the garbage, or you will have a LinkedIn connection that will be difficult to follow-up on. Make it a point to leave the people you meet with one important statement, phrase or question that they can remember you by.
8. Follow Through
Hey, Congratulations!!! You met 4 really key contacts last week at the conference. Oh, those business cards are still on your desk and you haven’t done anything with them yet? With everything that is going on in people’s busy lives, chances are they won’t remember you or most of what you had to say a week or more later.The follow-up has to be done immediately—Strike while the iron is hot—while they still recollect what has resonated with them.
Ultimately, your goal is to leave a positive and upbeat impression in another person’s mind. They should have as clear a picture as possible of who you are, what are your needs and that you are open to assist others in reaching their goals.
You want them to be left with the feeling that there is potential and value in the connection that was just made.
Represent yourself as efficiently and effectively as possible. For the few key connections you make, the follow-up will be the opportunity to provide more details and build upon first contact.
Be enthusiastic. Be positive. Care about helping people. More questions less statements. Listen. And then Listen some more. Smile. And Keep Smiling.
Look at networking as a way of creating possibilities and opportunities for you and for others.
Now that’s exciting! Act like it!