Networking — Things I’ve Learned (so far!)

In the past three and half years, I have learned a lot about networking, what it is and what it isn’t. At first, I was nervous because I was fearful of being a schmoozer who was insincere and fake in trying to sell people things they don’t want. Obviously this image was fueled by television and movies and not based on real-life! (I know I am not alone in the fear of being perceived this way as I have talked at length over the past few years with other new networkers who agree.)

Now, I see networking as a natural way of being in the world and realize I have always done it. I have always been interested in meeting new people, learning who they are, what they do and care about and how I can help them. I have always put people in touch with others they could benefit from knowing.

When I network for my business, I do the same thing—foster connections in an effort to be part of a greater community and figure out how I can be of service in it. Of course, it helps that I believe in my product and know it is high-quality and can help a lot of people.

My top tips about networking:

THE BASICS— I make sure I have lots of cards, pens and paper. Of course, my phone allows for note-taking, too but I am faster with a pen!

WIN-WIN RESULT—I always focus on what I can do for the other person first as a way to build rapport and trust. This is the fastest way I have found to create a good impression.

IDENTIFY GOAL—Before each event or meeting, I think about what I want to achieve. Do I want to meet lots of new people or focus on developing relationships?

QUESTIONS I ALWAYS ASK—How did you get involved in your current business? What’s your backstory?

RESEARCH IN ADVANCE—When possible, I check out the list of attendees (when available by the event organizers) and figure out who I want to make sure I meet. I also do a little internet research via LinkedIn to find out about contacts.

BE SELECTIVE IN CHOOSING EVENTS TO ATTEND—It is very important to budget my time wisely as it is impossible to attend every event I would like to. Nowadays, with virtual events, I find I can “attend” more events since the commute time is nonexistent! That is one silver lining of the pandemic.

BE AWARE OF IMPRESSION I AM CREATING —When I first walk in, I make sure I am smiling and ready to greet whoever is at the door/reception table. I relax my shoulders and stop squinting so it doesn’t look like I am scowling!

PITCH IN AND HELP—Whenever appropriate, I offer to help the organizers in any way, even as simple as getting them a drink or plate of food. I also make a point of engaging with people standing alone to make sure they feel welcome. It is a good way to meet new contacts. At the end of the event, I help clean up!

QUEUE UP—I LOVE LINES!—Standing in a line is a great way to strike up casual conversations. It also has the bonus of a natural endpoint to a conversation so I can move on.

TALK UP OTHER PEOPLE I KNOW (TESTIMONIALS)—I love to compliment other peoples’ work and business. None of us ever hear enough good feedback and I want to do my part to boost my community.

LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN—Whenever I ask a question, I make sure I LISTEN to the answer. This was something I had to actively strive to do as being in a group event can be very distracting. If someone gets cut off, I make sure I circle back around to their point.

And last, FOLLOW UP!— I make an effort at the end of the week to look over my events to make sure I have completed any tasks I agreed to do (referring by email, etc). This is so important to remember, is the key to successful networking and is easy to forget to do. Of course, it is better to do any follow up as soon as the event is over. My weekly Friday check-in with myself is a way for me to wrap up my week, get organized for the next week, and think about what happened during the past week.

Happy Networking!


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