5 Steps For Professional Networking That Makes Real Connections

5 Steps For Professional Networking That Makes Real Connections image Name Tag 300x1985 Steps For Professional Networking That Makes Real Connections
 
Scenario:  You’re at a networking event and after you’ve said hello to the person at the sign in table, you make an aggressive bee line to the refreshment area where you grab  a water, coffee or other drink of choice to give you a sense of comfort (something to hold in your hand) and look around the room to see who the other attendees are.  You see people greeting each other and already in conversation. There’s one guy taking notes and mentally rehearsing his 30 second elevator pitch, the way his lips are moving without sound and the shifting of his eyes from his paper to an invisible audience is a giveaway.  There  are people representing a nice range of ages, style choices, and interests.  People are still coming in to find a seat after writing their names on a ” My Name Is” sticky badge.  All of a sudden, your eyes connect with someone across the room who seems to be checking out the scene just as you are.  What do you do?  You walk up to the person of course! 

You NEVER know what kind of value you can bring to someone else or the value they can bring to you if you don’t initiate a conversation.  Below are some sure steps to take so that you can feel confident while networking without feeling or sounding phony.

1.  Don’t be a stuffy hussy.  Smile, relax, and introduce yourself as if you’re meeting a friend of a friend.  You’ve never met the person before but you you can talk to them in a way that allows you to tone down the formality.  It is an event where business people are but you definitely want to let your personality come through.

2.  It’s Not All About You.  Listen well.  Don’t go into this any networking event with a mindset that says, “I’m gonna hit them with a pitch or elevator they won’t be able to resist.” It just doesn’t work that way.  Yes, you want to make quality connections because these relationships will lead to quality referrals and business.  Partnerships are also a possibility but only if you go into the first phase with an open mind and ears to hear what it is the other person needs.  You can clearly state what it is that you do within two sentences but if there’s something else of topic find a commonality.

“You went to school at Georgetown?  So did my sister-in-law.  What  did you study?”

3.  Take Action.  If you meet someone at a networking event who you feel is really smart, contains some of the skills that you are looking for and is someone that you are excited to talk to again outside of the current networking environment, don’t wait to go home and send them an email.  Pull out your smart phone or day planner to schedule your next meeting right now!  Getting that meeting scheduled right away gives you a few more minutes later in the day to get other things on your to do list taken care of.  Besides, time goes by quickly and with your busy schedule you don’t want to risk putting the beginning of a great relationship on hold, not for a minute.

*On the flip side, don’t agree to meet with someone if you really don’t want to.  If you’ve been invited to have coffee by someone you’re not interested in meeting with, use this verbiage:

“My schedule is really full at the moment and I don’t want to commit to something I know I don’t have time for.”

4. Quality Leads to Quantity.  It’s a given that the purpose of networking is to increase the number of people we know.  This allows us increased opportunities to let more people understand what we do so that we can be the first person they think of when there’s a need for our expertise.  Networking is also about developing relationships that are based on integrity, trust, and a sincere desire for the other person’s success.  The key to having such relationships is to focus on how you can offer help.  You could help someone by making an introduction to someone he or she could benefit from knowing or providing resources that she is seeking by doing research on your own and contacting her about what you’ve found.  When you focus on how you can help others and follow through, you will certainly stand out in their minds.  You don’t want to take these steps with every person you meet but if there’s someone you’ve made a great connection with or who you’ve finally met face to face after wanting to meet for a while, it’s definitely worth taking the time to find out how you can help them.

5.  Follow Up.  Even after you’ve scheduled the meeting before leaving the networking event, follow up to confirm and if you’ve made an introduction between two people; check in to see how it went.  After you’ve sent information that another person has shown in interest in…follow up to get their feedback.  If you need to make some reminders for yourself to keep  track of your contacts try an online service that will help you stay on top of your contact list, like Contactually.  As you know, it’s important to stay in touch when growing your network and strengthening your relationships.

This post first appeared on www.strikingstatements.com in October 2012.

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