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.
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.
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!