You probably saw my post from last month about how to masterfully ruin a networking opportunity. How about now, we focus on the positive of what you CAN and SHOULD do to have a solid networking experience? Here are seven tried-and-true tips (both for IRL and virtual situations) from yours truly:
- Aim to talk to 5-10 new people at an event – As I said in my other blog post, get out of your comfort zone. Walk up to strangers, introduce yourself (first and last name plus 30-second pitch), and see where the conversation goes. My plan of action is to talk to people who look idle/eating quietly in a corner/etc. They are probably just as nervous as you are, so break the ice first.
- Bring your business cards ANYWHERE you go – Pretty much speaks for itself, but I want to emphasize this so much. Bring your business cards to any kind of event, outing, etc. My good friend Davina taught me this because, if you’re always on your game, you WILL be networking wherever you go. Who knows–that person in front of you at the grocery store could be your next employer/customer/best friend. If possible, ask the other party for his or her business card, too; if he/she does not have a business card, just get their contact information for future follow-up.
- Continue the conversation via email, LinkedIn, coffee meetups, etc. – Getting a business card in return is great; what’s even BETTER is to follow up properly! Find your new contact on LinkedIn (if you’re comfortable) or send them an email. Ask to meet up for coffee or lunch sometime so you can get to know each other better and how you can possibly work together.
- Make introductions between your connections – If you feel both parties would benefit from knowing each other, introduce them to one another, whether in-person or via email. I wrote a post last week about how to properly make introductions. Who knows–these connections may make introductions on your behalf in the future, which equals more exposure, more business.
- Keep the conversation relatively balanced between you and new contact – If you’re at a networking event, make sure to ask questions and listen to what the other person is saying. Don’t tune out or only jabber on about yourself. Also, it’s best to keep the conversation on a professional level unless you two really hit it off.
- Dress properly for the occasion – Should be a no-brainer, but I still see people show up in t-shirt and jeans to a non-startup networking event. Know what kind of crowd is attending beforehand so you won’t end up embarrassing yourself and making a weird/bad impression at the event. I say it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.
- Know when to move on from one connection - Sometimes you will meet people at events who actually don’t want to connect further. I have run into this situation, and I feel that, 1-2 follow-up emails are good until you decide to cross the contact off your list. Don’t be overly pushy; if the other party no longer wants to connect, then just let the situation be. You will meet more connections in the future!
I feel like the word ‘networking’ definitely gives a ‘bad vibe’ to some people, but I believe you should embrace every moment you get. This is exactly like dating: you’re not going to meet anyone new if you stay inside your own apartment/house.