Networking is one of the most important things you can do to grow your business and your personal brand. Here are our top eight tips to up your networking game.
1. Sift through your contact list
Connecting with everyone in your professional sphere is nearly impossible — nor time-effective. To determine who is worth establishing a connection with, sift through your contact list. Drew Hendricks from Forbes advised professionals to approach their potential networking list by, “asking yourself whether or not you can help each other.” Presenting yourself as a solution to a problem will help build fast, strong relationships.
2. Actively listen
Ivan Misner from the Entrepreneur surveyed approximately 3,400 business people and asked them to pick the behaviors they like to see in a great networker. Being a good listener was first on the list of the survey results. Conversations are most successful and enjoyable when participants spend time actively listening. Practicing this skill helps both participants feel valued and understood. Misner also noted that networking consists of connecting the dots, and actively listening will help you make the necessary connections to forge a strong, mutually beneficial relationship.
3. Cultivate a positive attitude
First impressions are essential to successful networking. Although a hand shake can often be part of a first impression from physical contact, attitude plays a big role too. Often times your attitude is the first thing people notice before they go to shake your hand. Misner noted, “A consistently negative attitude makes people dislike you and drives away referrals. By contrast, a positive attitude makes people want to cooperate and associate with you. This is why positive business professionals are like magnets”. Radiating positivity will not only help build your network now, but will help others feel confident in sending their family and friends your way later.
4. Be sincere
Can you recall a conversation you’ve had with someone insincere? Such instances can stick with you for years and that’s not what you want to be remembered for. Misner advises, “people who’ve developed successful networking skills convey sincerity at every turn.” If you aren’t being sincere, people will know it. Offer help and be authentic — faking isn’t feasible.
5. Follow up
You’ve worked hard to make quality connections, don’t squander them by not following up. Send a quick email after an event, reminding them of who you are and how you can help them. This will also provide a venue for you to periodically send updates, interesting articles and invites to other events.
6. Spice up your name tag
Networking events regularly have a name tag for you to fill out when you arrive. Although it may seem inconsequential, your name tag can tell a lot about you without you having to say a word. Vanessa Van Edwards, from the Science of People, advises attendees to look at how other people have filled out their tag before you create yours. You may find many people write their first name, full name or job description. Adapt yours to match everyone’s style but don’t be afraid to add a conversation starter to your name tag. For example, Edwards suggests, you could write a catch phrase in place of your company name such as “Non-Spammy Sales Guy” or “Leadership Interpreter.” This will help you stand out and have a great conversation starter.
7. Confidently hang out at events
With so many places to be at a networking event, don’t be afraid to move away from the event entrance.
Edwards notes, “When people walk into an event you have to give them time to breathe! Instinctively, when we are in a new place around new people we want two things: Nourishment (typically a drink or food) and to survey the room. So, don’t plant yourself right in the doorway. Anyone you pounce on right as they enter only will be thinking about getting something from the bar, loading up a plate or trying to check out the room surreptitiously over your head.”
Often times, the best place to hang out at an event is right where people exit the bar. You will be in a much better location as people have acquired their drink and are ready to meet others.
8. Master your business card game
In today’s world full of technology, keeping track of little paper business cards can pose a problem. Edwards found a helpful solution to the issue. Designate one coat pocket for your business cards and another pocket for business cards you collect from others. This will prevent you from awkwardly searching for your business card when someone asks for it or not being able to find someone else’s card who you want to follow up with. This strategy can work with a purse too.
Try implementing these tips at your next networking event. You may be surprised how much more confident and successful you are. We love featuring our accomplished readers — share your success stories with us on social media!
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