Learn to love networking. A vital aspect of any career, networking is not only necessary but is also incredibly helpful on so many levels short-term and long-term. It is a source of support for everyday job concerns and helps avoid feelings of isolation, while also being an opportunity to connect with peers in your field. A recent survey by LinkedIn even showed that upto 85% of jobs are currently being filled by networking.
However, the manner in which you network is just as important as networking itself. Although there is no one magic way to connect to an individual, there are some very quick wins to make sure you are out there and connecting the right way.
Here are our top tips for successful networking:
1. Considering your network
Knowing and understanding the network you would like to connect with is integral as it prepares you for the conversation that will subsequently follow. A few things worth exploring are:
What is the geography and demographic of the network?
Does the network have particular political, religious, academic or career affiliations?
How many people exist in the network, if they meet regularly and if they refer one another?
Do people commit to doing follow up and do they offer relevance to members or visitors?
2. Steps for joining a conversation
Approach a group, smile, but don’t actually interrupt the conversation going on.
Listen to get the gist of the conversation.
If there is no conversation and people are standing awkwardly, start something.
When the time is right, contribute. Share an anecdote or engaging, related story.
Once you have met everyone and have had a chance to contribute, simply excuse yourself and move on to another group or individual who appears receptive (as long as it is not impolite).
3. A professional handshake
Another quirk of human behavior, how you shake hands can provide subtle, nonverbal cues about your personality, business style and negotiating techniques. While analyzing interactions in job interviews, management experts at the University of Iowa declared handshakes “more important than agreeableness, conscientiousness, or emotional stability.” A firm grip that is just about 3 seconds long is considered an ideal handshake. Making sure your hand is dry and placed palm-to-palm with the individual’s is also important. Eye contact however is an aspect that varies between cultures – in North America maintaining eye contact is expected.
4. Formatting a memorable introduction
While brevity is important, the first introduction you make should also be able to draw someone into a conversation with you. State your name and your business name in a genuine manner, while looking confident and maintaining eye contact. Avoiding waiting for the individual to recognize you and instead make a statement such as “My name is Jeanie Frank and I work with Worldwide Business Solution…” If it is relevant, then include where your business operates, but the key is to make your introduction meaningful and notable.
5. Mastering small talk
This is a dreaded part of every conversation, and yet somehow also the aspect that determines the tone of the dialogue. Even today, up to 46% of new jobs are found via traditional networking, ergo, face to face conversations with individuals who may have an unpublished job in the waiting.
A helpful tip would be to know several interests and/or experiences that you’re willing to talk about that do not run the risk of being too personal or too controversial. Friendly and professional body language may be established with making eye contact, smiling, and remembering and using the individual’s name in conversation. Another approach would also be to ask easy, open-ended questions and to restate mutual interests.
Know what’s topical and keep up with broad headlines for your region and your industry, so you have some opener or conversation fillers. Guage the conversation. If the person you are talking to mentions family, then you mention family. Mirroring is a great way to make sure you are staying within boundaries.
At the end of the day, practice indeed makes perfect with mastering the art of small talk.
6. Using electronic contacts
A Quick Response (QR) code is an electronic representation of a piece of information that is increasingly being used instead of simply a printed business card or brochure. QR codes are useful because they can be scanned by most modern smartphones and are able to store and present much more data than what could be printed on a card. It is important to make sure that the result of scanning your QR code looks as expected to the person who receives your information. Downloading a few of the popular apps can also be helpful so that you can quickly and efficiently share your information and scan other QR codes.
7. Ways to contribute
If you are at a networking event, it could be helpful to arrive early to help set up. Adopting an overall helpful approach, such as asking people how you can help them or what they need, also goes a long way. It additionally does not hurt to greet people at the sign in table, allowing you a chance to meet everyone.
8. Be a conduit!
No, this definitely does not mean to be protective tubing for electrical wires! Being a conduit means understanding how to:
Connect: Introduce yourself to people, and then introduce those connections to other people they can benefit from meeting.
Open yourself up to new opportunities that come from meeting people and learning about them.
Nurture these relationships.
Direct your attention toward others and how you can help them.
Understand that others may not be as effective at networking as you. Be kind to them.
Interest yourself in what’s going on and who you are meeting.
Treat everyone as if they have something to offer, and a message worth hearing.
Successful networking could make the difference when it comes to your business.
“If you don’t drive your business, you will be driven out of business.” B. C. Forbes.
The key to networking is ultimately putting yourself and your business out in to the world. For more tips, check out Awesome Communication Skills for Small Business Owners and Network with Success!