7 Smart Networking Tips to Help You Work a Room
1. Network with intention:
Bring a sense of purpose to every networking activity. Set your goal for each networking event, and commit to it. Are you prospecting for new clients? Considering a career transition and need advice? Looking for new talent for your department? Think about why you are attending each networking event or meeting. Your goals will determine your strategy, pitch and follow up actions. Who you approach, how you present yourself, and what you talk about, will change and adapt for different situations.
2. Do your homework:
Research the event, organization, attendees, industry, sponsors and speakers. This research will provide topics to help you make intelligent conversation, present a strong first impression, and get the most value out of the event.
3. Get in the mood:
To be a great networker, you need a great attitude: To get in the mood, put on your power outfit, play your favorite music, give yourself a pep talk, and remember the fun you had, and the success you’ve achieved through other networking events. Now you’re pumped up and ready to connect.
4. Bring your business cards:
Bring a stack of cards, and keep them in an easily accessible pocket or purse compartment. Have a system so you don’t mix up the cards you receive with the cards you give out. Simple systems: i) keep your own cards in your right pocket, and the cards you collect in your left pocket. ii) I place the cards I receive in the back of my cardholder, and my own in front. And sometimes stash a blank or colored divider between them. This way, it’s easy to see when I reach the end of my stack.
5. Avoid critical networking mistakes
Don’t make these mistakes:
a) Constantly focused on your device during the networking and/or speeches – it’s rude and insulting, and sends a signal that you’re not interested in connecting with anyone.
b) Talking endlessly about the weather, traffic and other forgettable topics (unless you you’re a meteorologist or air traffic controller).
“Hi, don’t you remember me? We met at the Creative Conference last year, and I talked about the weather?” – said no smart networker ever.
c) Only hanging out with the people you know. How will you expand your network and your opportunities if you don’t stretch beyond your comfort zone? Even if your reason for being at an event is specifically to bond with clients, or impress your boss, (refer to Tip 1: know your goals), you will bring value and earn respect if you reach out to other people at the event who might be of interest to the people you’re with.
6. Find common bonds
It’s easy to find common bonds to help you connect and follow up: You just need to ask engaging questions, offer details about yourself, and tie the pieces together. Get personal, while staying professional.
Instead of this:
How was your weekend?
Good, and yours?
How was your weekend?
Great! I’m taking a cartooning & illustration class at the 92nd street Y. I want to incorporate fun visuals into my workshops and marketing materials. I’m a business coach, with a background in performing and creative arts. What about you?
…. and now you can reply by talking about art, your own background and career, classes you like and something interesting about your weekend too.
And the conversation will flow like watercolors on a sketch pad.
7. Embrace your differences
As different as you may appear to be from someone, you can find similarities and connected experiences to bring you closer together. You can also learn a lot from each other, and learn to appreciate your differences. Think of all the relationships that bring together people with diverse experiences, skills, educations, cultures, languages and personalities. And together, they create successful teams, boards, businesses and careers. Management + Talent. Introverts + Extroverts. Sales + Operations. Creatives + Corporates. Salty + Sweet. Vive la difference!
BONUS TIP: Follow the Golden Rule:
The next time you’re not sure what to do, refer to The Golden Rule, and network unto others as you would have them network unto you. Think about your own reactions in similar situations: How do you feel when someone you don’t know walks up to you and says “Hi, I’m Jay. This is my first time at this event. How did you hear about this organization Do you have any advice for me?” How did you react when someone asked for your business card because they appreciated your advice and wanted to continue the conversation? (Hopefully, you graciously said yes!) Remember who looked approachable, who stood out, and who acted stand-offish. Pay attention to the people who impress you, and to what they did and said to earn your respect. We can all learn from other, and we can all help each other. Go forth and network!
Now get out of your office, and go (net) work it!