In this day and age, with social media and the frightening fact that many professionals “hide” inside the virtual walls of the Internet, it’s never been more important to have your networking game in order for when the opportunity for face-to-face interactions present themselves.
It’s not enough to stalk people on social, or to make sure you have a box of business cards at the ready to hand out. Networking is a skill – a game – a very time-sensitive and fleeting opportunity to add people to your professional circle.
Here’s 7 tips to network more effectively and capture the most meaningful contacts you can.
1. Stop focusing on quantity
Not only will quantity NOT lead to more quality opportunities, the people you network with will inevitably see through you. Nobody wants to waste their time doing business with someone because they know how to walk around a room full of people and smile, while handing out business cards or exchanging social media info – moving from one person to the next and likely not remembering but a few names.
There’s an old saying that goes something like “If you hand out business cards like a dealer deals a hand of poker, most people will end up folding.” Calm down and actually talk to people – get to know them.
2. Stop acting like a player working the club scene
All girls, and many guys will get this analogy. We’ve all seen the players at the club talking to someone, while scanning the room hungrily looking for the next best thing, or a back up plan if the person they’re talking to rejects them.
It’s the same in networking at events. If the person you’re talking to has to fight to keep your eyes locked on them, they’ll soon tire of you – no information will get exchanged, and they’ll certainly remember your obvious lack of REAL genuine interest in them when you try to hit them up for something down the line.
3. Follow the “one and done” philosophy of networking
Everyone will try to tell you to meet as many people as you can at each event. After all, there might be dozens, if not hundreds of folks that can benefit from what you offer and help fatten your bottom line, right? NO! The fact is that very few people have the energy or social skills to effectively network with more than a few people.
Most of us only have the mental capacity to establish one firm relationship at a networking event. This doesn’t mean you won’t meet several people at an event, it just means when you find someone you hit it off with, don’t focus on setting a time limit on your interaction so you can move on and meet more people.
One great contact can last a lifetime of business and friendship.
4. Be compelling
Straight and to the point. Who are you and what can you offer? Unless you’re already some indispensable big-wig at Berkshire Hathaway, most people, especially those of influence, aren’t going to be inclined spending much time getting to know you. They’re even less likely to exchange contact information and agree to meet with you and “share” favors in the future, either. You have to treat networking conversations similarly to how you would a contemporary job interview.
Tell them what you can do that others cannot. And, don’t forget to ask them their story – what’s their advantage? Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself talking with someone who needs what you’ve got and/or can offer you something you need, thus forming mutually advantageous bonds rather than just a fleeting acquaintance.
5. Take notes while you’re talking to people
Not necessarily right at the moment while in front of them. But, make sure to make notes about people you plan to follow up with after the event. In particular, make sure you note their needs and any pressing problems they’re currently facing.
This way, even if you can’t offer a solution to their needs and issues at the event, you can do some research, make a few calls, and voila! You have a perfect reason to get in touch with them and further the relationship by either signing a contract with them for services you provide, or by simply being someone who knows the right people, processes, or products to cure what ails them.
6. End conversations with segues into your next meeting
It’s easy to end a conversation with the obligatory Californian “Let’s do lunch.” Which has little meaning and basically is a friendly way of saying “Until we meet again” even though people who say it rarely mean it. However, if you’re trying to build effective networking relationships, why limit yourself?
If they don’t try to set up a meeting, or agree to exchange emails or DMs, it’s up to you. Otherwise, you’ll likely be treated like a nuisance when you do get in touch, and have a tougher time getting through their gatekeepers, if they have any. A simple “Are you available on Friday for lunch – my treat?” or “Can I send you an email with that information/quote/name you need?” will go a long way toward setting up your next encounter with that person.
7. Research desired contacts on social
Form a list of influential people you want to meet and start by following them on their social accounts or blogs, if either apply. Many lasting professional relationships are formed on social long before people actually meet. Add them, find relevant topics to comment on, then send them a message telling them who you are and what you can do for them – simple, yet effective.
The Copyblogger team is famous for their claim that most of them got to know founder Brian Clark and his HR team on social long before they became staff members at Rainmaker Digital. You best believe those networking efforts paid off for those individuals who’re now a part of the 8-figure empire that the platform has transformed into!Best, you can track them to events where they’ll be via their posts. You’ll be able to make yourself valuable by already knowing a thing or two about them, and what type of potential resource you can be to them.
Feel free to share your most effective tips for networking more effectively in the modern business landscape.