It’s crucial to view networking as building a friendship and possibly even a partnership instead of wondering what an individual in the profession could do for you. Networking is a two-way street, which would ideally result in expanding both parties’ contacts and professional relationships.
Below are a few tips that can help navigate the networking world:
- Arrive on time. Showing up to a networking event early or on time will make it easier to find someone to talk to since most people won’t have conversation partners yet.
- Be approachable. Smile, make eye contact and listen to what people have to say.
- Keep the conversation casual. There is no need to start a conversation with a sales pitch. Remember to keep the conversation light and fun which will allow it to naturally progress to a deeper conversation. Do have a short elevator pitch ready on what you and your firm does if someone asks. The purpose is to connect with the person and try to find a mutual interest. People tend to do business with whom they get along. Asking general questions about the other person, weekend plans or favorite sports/teams are all great ways to further a conversation and will give you something to build on and to bring up in your next interaction.
- Share hobbies and interests. It should be relatively easy to find a personal connection with a networking prospect and truly expand on this common interest to form a lasting bond. Discussing hobbies or interest you are passionate about can help you find a common connection with someone. Even if this is not a common interest between the two parties, an interesting hobby will show you are well-rounded and have a personable side which will hopefully spark a lot of questions from the other party.
- Follow up. By following up, you are reinforcing the relationship with the person you met. If you collected a business card, shoot the person a quick email the next day simply saying that you enjoyed meeting them. Try to connect a discussion point from your conversation. You can also connect with your new contacts through LinkedIn, which will help you stay in their network.
Most importantly, remember that very few people are naturally comfortable with networking. It takes time to build the confidence to recognize other people are actually interested in what you have to say.