Love it or hate it, networking is a valuable way to move yourself and your business forward.
And the more you network, the more you will network. I’m a believer, two years after starting my own business and putting myself and what I am passionate about out into the world every day.
What I’ve learned is that one connection leads to another. These connections can lead to helping someone else achieve their goals, aligning myself with a new colleague to create inspired collaboration, meeting my perfect customer, and signing contracts that benefit both my new clients and me.
Some results of networking are achieved almost immediately. Others can take quite some time to realize. Either way, it’s all worth it. And that’s why we need to keep refining our small talk and networking skills. With that in mind, here are 7 ways to get better results from networking events:
1. Understand WHY you are networking.
Trying to sell a specific product or service at a networking event can start you off on the wrong foot right from the get-go. Attend a networking event to meet people, listen, learn and add value.
2. Don’t be a shark.
We all want SOMETHING from our networking efforts. It’s how we go about getting ‘the something’ that matters. Your communication skills, your empathy and your authenticity will contribute to your success. (And don’t forget your sunny, engaging personality.)
3. Put your excellent communication skills to work.
The ability to present yourself, the skill of active listening, the art of asking questions, the insight of sharing relevant experiences … All of these will help you navigate a networking event successfully.
4. If you aren’t enjoying yourself, fake it.
Confession: I used to hate networking. I wasn’t comfortable, I wasn’t sure what to say or ask, and frankly, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Thankfully, I’ve grown into ‘the networking skill’. Now, I have a hard time finding a downside to networking.
5. Make sure you follow up in a timely manner.
If you’ve promised to send someone a document, tip or book recommendation, do it the next day. You are fresh in their minds, and following up right away will reinforce the know-like-and-trust factor. This is easier if you have made notes on their business card or in a small notebook during your discussion.
6. Do a bit of research before you go.
Who is sponsoring the event and why? Who is attending? Doctors, lawyers, auto mechanics or astrophysicists? What do they need to be successful? Put yourself in their shoes before you go, and be ready to ask questions and really listen to the answers.
7. Learn the art of small talk.
Small talk gives us an opportunity to share a bit about ourselves while determining if we have common interests that encourage further exploration. If you are new at networking, prepare one or two opening lines and probing questions to get you started. The more you practice, the better and more natural you will become. And you don’t want to kill the conversation before it even starts.
What are your secrets to being a successful networker? Share them in the comments below. We can always learn from each other.
All the best,
This article also appears on LinkedIn Pulse.