1) Just be yourself. Everyone else is taken. Relax. Enjoy. Ask people lots of questions about themselves and their business so you get the real value of networking, which is meeting some really fascinating people! You may find that person who was trampled by an elephant and survived by learning some amazing life lessons they’ll share with you.
If you met me at a networking event, you’d never know that I have worked with some of the world’s top celebs and know some secrets to getting famous (as if that was something any of us ever really wanted, besides Lady Gaga, that is!) unless you asked about my life and work. Make sense?
2) Drink. Or do something to keep your hands occupied. It relaxes the brain. When you’re relaxed and not trying to impress anyone, you’ll have more fun and people will enjoy chatting with you because you’re being your fabulous, inquisitive self!
OK, I’m not really promoting alcoholism, but you get the idea. I generally carry my water bottle to these events so I can stay hydrated (unless they have a really great martini).
3) Have no expectations. If you set yourself a quota of ‘getting a new client or referral’ or meeting 20 new people and collecting their cards, you won’t achieve #1 & #2. That just takes all the fun out of it.
4) Get to know one person pretty well, not twenty people superficially. Sure, you can mill around but you’ll feel more satisfied if you get to know at least one person well enough to describe what they do to a friend. That way, you’ll feel comfortable following up with them (ah, now you have to read #5).
Get to know a few people on a personal level. Ask them; “What are you passionate about” to find where you may have more common ground, to make it a more interesting conversation than putting people on the spot by asking what they do – and because people hire and refer those they like, not just those who are competent! [Thanks to Mark E. Sackett, leader of this SF & NYC meetup group for that fun networking question]
5) In the follow up lies the sale. Don’t try to make a sale at an event where people are distracted trying to meet each other in a noisy, crowded room. You’ll just be disappointed – and likely annoy the people you meet.
It’s only by staying in touch, sometimes for years, that you really gain the value of those you meet. Why does it take so long? Sometimes it doesn’t. But people only call you when they need what you offer, so be sure to stay top of their mind by meeting for coffee, phone calls, sending useful news items, connecting socially, in your blog, or in whatever way works best for them!
If they forget about you because you’ve not been in touch when they need your offerings, then you’ll lose the sale, thus devaluing the whole time you just spent networking. Outta sight, outta mind.
Why stay in touch?
People you meet love it when you invite them to your “stay in touch” enews, send them an article you think they’d enjoy, or just periodic emails or calls. It shows them you really care.
You wouldn’t believe how many thousands of dollars our agency has paid to vendors over the years because they just kept in touch w/ us, even though we had no need for their skill at the time we met. Over time, when we needed a particular skill or service, we vetted the people we felt were knowledgeable and hired those we know would do a great job at a fair price for our clients.
We keep in touch with those we meet networking because it’s just rude not to. And we are genuinely interested in them. People are fascinating if you have an open mind and give them a chance to show it. That’s all. Common courtesy. Ah, simple, see?
It’s appreciated when others remember to do that with us! It then triggers us to easily click through to their social pages to learn a few things more about them. Before you know it, you’ve got a relationship going that’s the basis for great referrals or a working relationship! Easy. Takes 30 seconds.
Need more tips? Look for “My Favorite Networking Tips” in our store. Please share your best tips with all our readers in your comments below – and include a link to your own website to use your comment as a networking opportunity!