Some view networking as a necessary evil: something that must be done in order to tell the world about you, your product and/or your service. However, this is only partly true. I used to hate networking with a passion, seeing it as a way to suck up to people you don’t even know, probably don’t like, and having to laugh at jokes that should have never been told — ever! 🙂 Pardon me, as I ‘keep it real’ in this installment, because I want to help those of you out there who are very apprehensive about networking, and thereby go about it the wrong way in most instances.
Here are some general rules to maximize your networking experience:
1) Be genuine. Almost nothing is worse than talking to a person whose only purpose is to push their agenda. Have a genuine interesting in getting to know people, and what they do. Even though you may not utilize their services, you may know of others who can. Playing ‘matchmaker’ has the benefit of getting people what they want, having them remembering who to go to for almost anything (center of attention), and getting more business as people want to help the one that helped them.
2) Remember names. This tip is so good and so solid, but it’s also one that many people pass up. Remembering names is the most personal thing you can do when meeting new people. It makes the other person feel validated, and you make yourself stand out because few others do the same thing. Also, it definitely helps when it’s time for introductions, as you don’t have to try creative ways to remember their name (looking at a name tag, asking other people, asking for their business card, etc.). I saw this in action just yesterday when the host of a party I attended forgot my name, but actually introduced me to some very influential people because I remembered their name.
3) Don’t just pass out business cards. Being king or queen of distribution at a networking party is not cool at all. You don’t add any kind of value to he function, and you end up wasting money because most of the cards will end up in the trash at the party or later on when the attendees get home. Why? Because you have not made a personal connection with the people you gave a business card to! Take 2-3 minutes to ask a few questions about the other person, and 9 times out of 10 they will ask for your information in return, automatically.
4) Be interested — and interesting. When talking to people, appear to be really interested in what they are saying, even if you are not. This may sound bad and contrary to ‘being genuine,’ but this can actually get you more business because you never know who you’re talking to. Vary your facial expressions and voice when listening and responding. Say things like, “Oh really?” or “Tell me more about that,” and “Wow! That’s really amazing/interesting/cool.” The goal is to be genuine and make the other person feel like their presence is wanted, and they will most likely remember you for it. Also remember these things when it’s your turn to speak. Try not to be dull and speak with a lot of facts and figures, but rather speak with emotion and give your listeners something that they can connect with.
5) Know what you do. This should go without saying, but you’d be surprised at the number of people who are not prepared to talk about their business. They limp along in the description, and people end up being uninterested or confused because it seems like even you don’t know what you do! Prepare a 30-second speech about your business, and go over it in the mirror several times until you have perfected it.
6) Give and you will get. The Golden Rule applies here, and for good reason. The more you show people that you want to help them, the more they are willing and eager to help you. This is especially true when you do things without asking, or when you connect one person who sells to another who buys. I have had slow days and weeks before, and was supported only by those people who remember my services and either gave me business themselves or connected me with someone who needed my services. You never know when it will come back to you, but it always helps when it does.
7) Every function isn’t for you. Exposure is everything these days, but too much of a good thing can make anyone sick of seeing you! If one week you are at a technology seminar, and the next week you’re at a knitting expo, something is very wrong unless you really like the two. For one, unless you can really relate to the theme of the function, it will be boring and you will wind up becoming a master distributor of business cards. However, the people you hand them out to will wonder why you were there in the first place, because it’s highly doubtful that a Amish farmer would need the services of a ASE Certified Mechanic. Don’t deviate too much in the functions you go to so that you can truly maximize your impact.
Remembering these rules can make networking a more fun and positive experience for everyone involved!