Top 10 Networking Tips
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It’s likely you’ve heard this before, but we are going to plop it in here anyway: “It’s not what you know but who you know that counts.” Moving around in the business world is all about knowing and being known by the right people. That’s why you need to make some rock solid first impressions. No worries! We are here to help you with our favorite networking tips.
10 Networking Tips
1. It’s not about you.
Repeat this to yourself constantly when you are at networking events, conferences or even just out and about on the street. You are going to destroy your networking efforts if you are continually thinking about how you look, what you should be saying or how you should be behaving. Stop thinking about how your arm itches or you are sweating bucket in your suit coat. This isn’t about you. We want you to really dive into the conversations that you are having with the people around you and focus on them. Imagine that you have five minutes to learn everything possible about them. OK, don’t speed talk, but ask them lots of questions. Think of yourself as a sponge. You are a sponge, so soak it all in. (This is also a great marketing habit to get into in general.)
2. Be memorable.
This is something you have probably heard 5000 times, and all it does is make your mouth get really dry and your under arms get really wet. Relax, friends. There are lots of things you can do to be memorable without reciting the Gettysburg Address or dancing like a chicken.
Find common ground.
People like people who are like them. It is natural for us to feel close to people who are similar to us. Think of all the friends you have. Chances are, you are friends with them because they come from a similar background, like the same sports teams, have the same sense of humor or work in the same area as you. We like to feel that we are not alone in the choices we make. Utilize this tidbit of psychology to your advantage! This is also a very natural way to have a give-and-take conversation.
For example: Jane Doe turning to stranger next to her: This networking event is so well organized. I really appreciate how everything is set up. Stranger whose name is coincidentally John Doe (no relation): It is one of the nicer conventions that I have attended. Although, the one in Seattle was the best I have ever attended. Jane: Wow, Seattle! Do you often travel for your job? John: Yes, bi-weekly. Jane: What has been your favorite travel destination? John: I loved Wisconsin. Jane: No way! I am from Wisconsin. What do you like about it? (*ding*ding*ding* We have a winner!)
Tell a story.
This is another favorite because stories are just plain fun. Find a meaningful or funny story that is relevant. Don’t force the story into every new conversation, but, if you have a great story, be willing to share it. Stories help connect people and are great for building relationships and trust.
Related post: How to Use Storytelling to Build Your Brand
Develop a curiosity for others.
Think back to our example under #1. Jane was successful in networking with John because she was genuinely curious about who he was and what his job entailed. She sponged her way through that conversation.
This is slightly repetitive, but it needs its heading because it is important. People have a sixth sense for disingenuousness. If you seem uncomfortable or like you are just waiting for someone to talk so you can squeeze in more talking about yourself, people can tell. It’s difficult to connect with someone who is only interested in getting to know you for his or her own benefit.
Don’t monopolize the conversation.
You want to be memorable in a good way, and you definitely don’t want to put people to sleep: two very good reasons to make listening a priority. If you aren’t sure how to go about this, drop a question and wait.
Related post: How to Make People Your Business
3. Leave your comfort zone behind.
Networking is awkward. It is intimidating. It can be clumsy. You have to step beyond that, though. You will never grow if you don’t push yourself to rise out of your comfort zone. You will never make new friends if you only talk to the same people. It’s like trying to lose weight without changing your diet or your exercise regimen. It ain’t gonna happen. Change is scary, but it is part of life. Carpe diem!
4. Network in all directions.
You are going to bump into people who have higher and lower positions in a company than you. Don’t shy away from people like this. No matter who the person is or what industry she comes from, she has something that she can teach you. Let me say that again. No matter who the person is or what industry he comes from, he has something he can teach you. Don’t look at someone’s job title to decide if he or she is worth your networking time. You don’t know who they know that could get you into your next gig, and you don’t know if they may be someone that you need in your own company. Think of Arthur and the round table. Everyone is equal.
5. Dress the part.
You know your industry better than I do, so I am not going to make blanket statements of “no jeans or polos.” But, keep in mind that you are networking so that you can grow. Dress for the part that you are hoping to rise up to. If you dress the same, you will stay the same. OK, that might be a little dramatic, but dressing the part definitely helps make you look more ready to rise to the challenge. Bonus: it also helps you psychologically to feel more confident.
6. No elevator pitches allowed.
This may seem weird, but seriously, you are here to be a human. You can take more than an elevator ride’s worth of time to talk to people, so don’t cram an overdone statement down their throats. You are trying to network, and that involves building a relationship. You don’t need to sell yourself, because remember: it’s not about you.
(If you came for Elevator Pitch Tips click here.)
7. Say the right stuff.
Here is where things get real. See, it doesn’t matter how dapper you look if you are going to fumble awkwardly for your words and then proceed to drink too much water so that you look busy. No worries, though. Remember, earlier we said, “If you aren’t sure how to go about [making conversation], drop a question and wait.” We really do believe in that practice. We have some great questions and conversational staples for you, so that you can be a networking success.
8 Things to Say when Networking
- Hello, my name is ____________. What is your name? (Bonus: repeat his/her name back and then use it periodically in conversation. Be personal!)
- What business are you? (Be sure to be genuinely interested!)
- What do you do? (It seems similar to the last question at first glance, but if you delve deep enough into your conversation you will learn that it is not the same question as the previous one.)
- What do you like about your job?
- How did you get into this line of work? (or) What made you decide to become a ________?
- Would you advise someone to enter — business X — the way you did?
- Would you change anything you did as you were entering the field?
- Do you have plans for moving forward in your personal development or career?
- What are you hoping to get out of this networking event?
- What is your opinion about — X –? (Now, this can be an amazing conversation starter if you can do it right. It can also lead to an awkward fight if done incorrectly, so do not ask opinions on anything technical, political or controversial. Remember that you are trying to find common ground.)
8. Be up to date on your current events.
This is a great icebreaker, as well. World news and local news are great conversational pieces because, well, they are relevant and generally well-known. Just be careful not to let any strong opinions come out if you are not prepared to have a debate, and remember not to be offensive. Being offensive usually turns people off from being your friend. Just saying.
9. End with grace.
Ending conversations can be terribly awkward if not done correctly. Be sure you hold eye contact with your newly networked associate to show that you are happy that you met him or her. Avoiding eye contact or making quick eye contact may seem like you are in a rush to get away. Shake hands and repeat their names to them. “It was wonderful talking with you, ________.” Do not let the handshake linger for too long. Now, that is just awkward. If it seems appropriate, you can also exchange business cards or LinkedIn information.
10. Stay up to date with your network.
LinkedIn is a great way to stay connected with the people in your network. You can also meet up for coffee or do other normal conversational things. Just be sure you don’t lose track of the people you have worked so hard to get to know.
Networking is a great way to grow a business and to stay informed about what’s going on in the business world. Remember to smile, and good luck!
If you have any questions about networking or marketing, reach out to us here.