Today’s topic focuses on the importance of networking both on a business and personal level. According to Lewis Howes in his article on the 7 key habits of Super Networkers, “the ability to network successfully can be one of the greatest assets in business.” Networking not only helps you connect with people within your company and within your industry but it also makes other people aware of you and your skills and capabilities, which can help boost you up the career ladder. Furthermore, it is a great way of meeting new people, gathering knowledge and insights and developing and improving your interpersonal communication skills.
However, networking requires more than just attending an eventor handing out business cards. According to an article by Glenn Llopis on forbes.com, networking requires planning and when used with a strategic and measurable approach, can serve as a powerful professional development learning experience. He stresses that the more you procrastinate, the more you will find yourself disconnected from the opportunities that may potentially advance your career or allow you to meet the right people.
Many people make the assumption that that you need to be outgoing to be successful at networking but that is not the case. What matters more is developing the right technique and then committing to doing it well.
Here are some key networking tips to consider when you attend your company and industry events.
1. Listen well and observe those around you
Make an effort to learn the ‘story’ of the person you are networking with, as it will help you to understand their approach to business and what you can learn from them. Asking questions and taking an interest in your contact will also make them feel valued and hopefully interested in continuing the relationship.
2. Try to add value
According to Lewis Howes, providing immediate value to a new connection is one of the most powerful networking practices. Once you understand what your new contact does, identify a way you can help them or add value, for example by assisting them with a current problem or introducing them to one of your contacts who may be of assistance to them.
3. Ensure your new contact remembers you when you leave them
The overall aim, as Glenn Llopis confirms, is to ensure that when you walk away from a conversation, those around you knows something about your personal brand. Whether it’s your enduring idea, what differentiates you from others, or what you do, the aim should be to leave new contacts with a positive experience they’ll remember. Share a memorable fact when someone asks what you do and don’t be afraid to make it a personal one. It can often lighten the mood and get people talking.
4. Remember it’s a two way conversation
Even though you are enthusiastic and have lots of ideas to share, one of the key mistakes many ‘newbies’ at networking make is talking about themselves – all of the time. The trick is to engage in conversation where you listen and get involved. Gather intelligence and ask questions.
Networking does not stop once the event is over. “Meeting someone is just the first step in networking. In order to forge a lasting relationship (and make sure people don’t forget you), you need to follow up, every single time.”
Here are some essential networking points to do after the event:
1. Keep a list of who you met and the topics discussed
Write down important topics that came up at the event and things you may want to research further for the next time you meet that person.
2. Keep your promises
If you committed to sending an email or returning a phone call, follow through in order to gain respect and a trustworthy reputation. If a contact you met sends you an email or information, or took the time to meet you again, always ensure that you thank them.
3. Continue the conversation
Invite contacts to continue the conversation either on-site or online via social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. Alternatively, re-connect at lunch or invite them to another networking function. By taking the lead to continue the conversation, you become the catalyst and help to build up a longer relationship with the person that you have identified as an important networking contact.
4. Hold yourself accountable
Glenn Llopis gives a great analogy when it comes to accountability, saying “ Think of yourself as a project manager, responsible for identifying next steps, who is responsible and defining the outcomes and desired results.”
However, networking should not just be seen as hard work. To end on a positive note from Llopis: “ Even though networking is an art and a science, in the end, networking should be fun, exciting and a rewarding approach to advancement.”