Tag Archives: best practices

[love] Your guide to networking, part 2: 10 things you ought to do

I am excited to share the last 10 tips to networking — the response from you has been so positive! Thank you! Of course, tweak the tips to suit your given situation. If you missed part one on the networking DON’Ts, you can read it here.

handshake

Networking DOs

1. Ask for what you want. At first glance, this sounds selfish, but it’s not. It’s being truthful about what you’re looking for, and people are infinitely more likely to connect you to who or what you’re looking for (a referral, for instance, “someone who wants to set up a fundraiser” or “a single mom in need of another source of income,” or even as general as “a doctor” — always ask for referrals!) if you request it. If you do need to jump in on an already-established conversation, just outright ask, “May I join the conversation?” Networking is as much about connecting others as it is about making your own new connections. On that note . . .

2. Give before you receive. What value can you provide to a stranger? Find opportunities to help or serve someone else before you ask them for anything. If no obvious opportunity to offer them a solution to a need arises, straight up ask, “How can I help you find what you’re looking for tonight?” It feels great to have that asked of you, especially if you are literally there alone (which I am 99% of the time) and you know nobody.

3. Actually call her up for that coffee date. Networking events, contrary to what you may believe, are not actually the time to set up appointments. They are the initiator of a conversation you will in theory have later. Never leave a networking event without the contact information of the movers and shakers that you met, which calls back what I told you in part one about not wasting your time. The phone can feel about 600 pounds heavier when it comes to calling someone you don’t know too well, but like working out, you may dread it before you do it, but you’ll be glad you did after the fact. (Admittedly one thing I immensely struggle with still.)

4. Friend him on Facebook. Or whatever other social media platform you want — it’s like phoning, lite. It does not replace meeting up again in person later, or they’ll just become the next vague connection you creepily follow via your newsfeed (like your classmates from fourth grade you haven’t seen in over 10 years). I say “creepy” because it’s so one-ended — what’s the point unless you’re going to interact?

I’m going to slip in another DON’T here — this happened to me this morning. Don’t send your new contact an advertisement that was designed for the general public in an e-mail entitled “Goose Island networking event” (or wherever you met them) — yes, sir, I’m talking to you. Thanks for leading me into believing you were going to actually make an effort to say something to me and then promptly morphing into a spam mail. Honestly, this guy probably just sent the e-mail to the entire list of attendees. Instead of being that guy, you can e-mail someone “Goose Island networking event” and in the body, say, “Hi Stella! It’s Liz from last Thursday. We met in front of the full-service bar! It was great to meet you. I’d love to hear more about your new book coming out. Would you like to get some coffee sometime this week?” It’s important not to come on too strong; don’t scare someone away by being overly excited — or worse, accidentally perceived as flirtatious. (It happens.)

5. Approach the leaders who’ve put on the event. It may be intimidating to go and say hi to the bigshot man or lady who organized the evening itself, especially if s/he was some kind of keynote speaker. But that’s why they’re there, and in my experience, they almost always know someone they should introduce you to. I’ve met some really amazing people because of this, and you’re almost guaranteed to be invited to their next soirée.

business cards

Hopefully your business cards have a lot more information than this: Your name, e-mail, phone number, website, your product/service/ opportunity.

6. Be prepared. Always, aways bring your business cards and any relevant literature you might want on your person in case the occasion arises. (In the case of my jewelry biz, in conjunction with opportunity literature, I should carry around coupons and referral cards. And my calendar. It’s no wonder my purse is enormous.) Also imperative, a stack of Post-Its and a pen! My fellow business team member (and sponsoring superstar) Shiela Grimmett shared this tip with me way in the beginning — it can get overwhelming to sift through your stack of business cards later and not be sure who was who. So after you meet anyone and you have their card, write yourself a little note to stick onto it: where you met, what you talked about, perhaps what they looked like, or any extra facts to help you remember them. I swear that my dental hygienist must follow a similar practice because when I see her every six months, she freaks me out with how much she remembers about me from last time! But it’s a pleasant freak-out — one in which you feel special.

I also find that they come in handy when you do meet the occasional absentminded, unprepared person who didn’t bring cards (again, why??) because you can have them write their details down for you.

7. Practice your elevator pitch. Traditionally, people say you should limit this to 30 seconds, but you should really have multiple versions of it, both for length (30 seconds, one and five minutes, even an hour) and for different audiences. For example, a corporate person will speak a different language from a late teen who just graduated from university. This also comes in handy when you attend specific networking groups events that invite individuals to speak about themselves for a limited period of time. Remember not to go on and on about your business right away (if you’re just schmoozing — it’s okay at a networking meetup where you’re asked to talk about it specifically), and tell stories about yourself. People relate more to anecdotes because they humanize you. If all you talk about is listing all the other networking events you’ve gone to or about your job or business, they are likely to tune out and/or find you boring and move on to more sociable pastures. Learn to read people, and not only just for their vernacular.

8. React appropriately. People LOVE to share photos on their phone of their children and/or their pets. If you can’t stand either, deal with it. Don’t just stare blankly and say nothing — it might go against the grain because you might think this is inauthentic to who you really are, but it’s really just being a decent person and showing your humanity. (If you have a tremendous phobia of dogs or children, I think it would be far more interesting to respond with a story — say, “I’m so sorry; I’m deathly afraid of tortoises! When I was five I got trapped under a 90-pound one at the zoo for half an hour” — which expresses your opinion on the matter and simultaneously inspires empathy. Perhaps also a laugh.)

9. Dress the part. It’s a fact of the world that you are treated according to how you are perceived. If you’re coming to promote your fashion business, it may be a good idea to curl your hair and wear something trendy and flattering. We all have our off-moments and off-days, but this all feeds into coming prepared. People won’t take you seriously if you look like a hot mess, or worse yet, you keep pointing out why you think you are one. (If it’s a bad skin day, cover up the blemishes and don’t talk about them.) People make immediate conclusions on who you are within the matter of seconds, so don’t sabotage it by coming in pajamas (unless, in some fortunate turn of events, this is some kind of networking slumber party ordeal 😉 ).

10. Keep it positive. Remember to smile! Networking isn’t the chore you might feel it is before you do it. Once you’re in a groove, it’s pie. No one wants to meet and befriend a grump, so lighten up the mood and be friendly! If you communicate with your body language that you are NOT open to meeting fantastic new people, uh, you won’t.

Thanks again to the fabulous leaders I referenced at the end of part one, and thanks also to Success magazine. (Told you I was a sponge.) I’ve found that these practices have helped me tremendously, and in conjunction with consistently showing up to events where folks are open to meeting new people, there’s the potential to really grow and reap all the benefits! By no means is this a 100% comprehensive list, so please ask any questions you may have in the comments below. I am going to conclude this series with a last post on where to find networking opportunities, so stay tuned!

Do you like this information? If so, it’d really help me out if you’d leave feedback and/or share it with your friends and get the conversation started!

To new friends and partners!

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[fear] your guide to networking, part 1: don’t do these 6 things

butterfly

I’ve come a long way since my first-ever networking event: I was invited by my (then-)boss to come downtown and join her at an evening of networking, where she and several other talented women were being honored for the night. It was an intimate gathering, with probably no more than 20-40 people at any given time, and I was scared out of my wits. I arrived early (if you know me, you know this rarely happens) and because I’d never officially networked before, I had no idea what to do other than be scared. I ended up finding myself a dark little corner and opening a book! (Thank God for the brave soul who approached me anyway. I still managed to meet some amazing people that day — once I put that book away!)

Bookworms are much cuter in photos, not in bars.

Bookworms are much cuter in photos, not in bars.

Last week, I networked every day from Wednesday to Saturday, and I did it again this morning.

How did an awkward bookworm transform into social butterfly in six short months? Um, I’m not going to lie — it can still be intimidating for me, but because growth (and success!) only happens just beyond your comfort zone, I make myself do it. I’m by no means someone who has it totally figured out and makes 50 new contacts on any given night, but I certainly know a little something now about conquering this fear. What I have found is pretty encouraging: Despite my initial fear and intimidation, I ALWAYS walk out of a networking endeavor feeling glad I did it, if not high because I’m in love with my new connections! (Such is generally the other side of fear.)

A disclaimer: I am actually an extravert, someone who is energized by being around people. HOWEVER, when it comes to social situations in which the number of people I know well is greatly disproportionate to the number of people I don’t know at all, it’s almost completely the opposite. (As an undergrad I notoriously “hated parties.” Unless they were mine, and were limited to about 15-20 people.) I’m what I call an “introverted extravert,” so shy people, don’t fret. People are social by nature, so just tap into that and use it as a reason to get out of your shell! (This applies particularly to women, as we are hardwired to make connections.)

There are a lot of best practices and faux pas in the world of networking, so I’ve decided to split this article into two parts: the DOs and DON’Ts of networking. I’ll start with what not to do today (you’ll have to wait till next week for what to do).

DON’T

1. Use the one person you know there as a crutch. I know, it can feel easier to go to a networking event if you bring a friend or significant other, or just stick to the one person there you already know — but you’re there to meet people you don’t know yet! What’s the benefit if you’re going to follow your husband around like a puppy all night or worse, you use the buffet table as an excuse to stay secluded and not join in on any new conversations? The same goes for your phone — turn it off (yes, off! Not on vibrate, you li’l cheater 😉 ) unless you have some extenuating circumstance (not knowing anyone doesn’t count). Anything you can turn into an excuse not to mingle will only waste the time and effort you took to get there in the first place (not to mention money if you paid to get in).

2. Talk more than you listen. Okay, so you’ve started conversing with your new contact. Excellent! You should be proud of yourself, but dial down the excitement a little bit. Networking is about connecting with people you don’t already know, so if all you do in your conversation is yak about yourself, how can you expect him or her to see value in having met you? (Of course, if they keep asking questions, that’s another issue entirely.) But generally speaking, remember that we have two ears and one mouth: Use them accordingly! Make the conversation more about them and not you.

3. Get there late. People who know me are probably reading this and laughing, because I’m perpetually running behind. Of course, if there isn’t some kind of scheduled panel discussion, fashion show, or something like that, no one’s going to be there pointing at their watch at you if you get there half an hour late. But if you get there once the scene is already hopping, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice because those infamous cliques and conversations will already be taking place and you’ll find yourself either making excuses in your head to cling onto the one “safe” person you know there, your phone, or the food — or if you’re braver, you’ll find yourself in the awkward situation of having to join a conversation that started without you (this is, by the way, more beneficial than the former). On the same token, don’t leave early — a lot of fantastic people do stick around, and that extra 45 minutes could have yielded a new best friend! (In my case, it actually rewarded me with an extra $10 I wasn’t even expecting — long story. 😉 ) You know what they say about the most successful businesspeople: They are the first to arrive and the last to leave.

4. Spend all your time on one person. You shouldn’t let one sole person dominate your entire evening. Indulge in talking to an avid talker (e.g., someone you might already know who has so much to tell you) for a little bit, but then excuse yourself so you can maximize your time there. On this note, please don’t excuse yourself with a lie, e.g., “I’m going to go to the bathroom, be right back” and then never appear again. This is a personal peeve of mine because I feel it’s rude. Say something more along the lines of, “I’m going to grab a little more food, but I’ll catch up with you later!” A lot of people tend to duck out earlier than you’d like, so use the opportunity to get a little face time with others.

5. Waste your (and others’) time. This is HUGE! If you end up having a fabulous evening meeting terrific people, but you don’t get their contact information so you can follow up with them later (even if it’s just for a coffee), there was no reason to meet in the first place. The chances that the people you met and want to meet again will magically cross your path again or hunt you down for that coffee are pretty slim, so don’t leave things to chance — make them happen.

6. Hit and run people. With your business cards, I mean. (No business card? Get some. Period. I don’t even know why people without cards go to networking events. Like, really? Worst case, write your info down on some paper — ahead of time — and tell them you ran out! Not everyone is as prepared as I am and carries Post-Its with them all the time. 😛 ) People who just leave their cards lying on bathroom sink counters or chairs are just wasting paper — half the time you go home and may not even remember who the heck Joe Snazzle was (I’ll share a tip on how you can overcome a short memory in the next post), so don’t hide behind your card hoping people will remember you if you only took the time to give them the card in the first place! The worst way to network is to expect your business card, an INANIMATE OBJECT, to do all the work for you. Have conversations! Take an interest in someone — even if it’s just to compliment her smile, so they walk away with a good impression of you. This whole “Hi, I’m Steve. Here’s my card — bye” annoys me so much that I actually went back and added number six to this list when I was originally going to keep it at five tips for the day.

There’s so much more I want to say, but I’ll write them into the second installment. I’ll leave you with a final thought/mini-DON’T: don’t be so self-conscious. If you’re quiet or shy, own it. Just don’t keep apologizing or putting yourself down for it!

Do you agree with my tips here? What are some valuable DON’Ts you’ve learned in your exploration of networking? Share them with a comment below! I can’t wait to release part two! Thank you to Sarah Vargo, Maven superstar; Shari Duffy of Ladies Night Chicago; Peggy Liao, who coordinated this morning’s meetup; and Jasmine Star, THE wedding photographer, for teaching me what I now know about networking.

Love + light,

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