The Do’s and Don’ts of Networking
Networking is vital to growing as a professional, and can help expand your business territory. Here are a few useful Do’s and Don’ts that will help you become confident and successful as you network.
1.DO - Prep
Before entering an event, have a pre-determined game plan. Be willing and prepared to introduce yourself and make meaningful conversation. You want to leave an impression and be remembered. Know how to articulate who you are, what you do and what your aspirations are before you walk into an event. Confidence is contagious and your ability to introduce yourself with such confidence will draw individuals to you. Practice this - say it out loud in a mirror if you have to. Striking up a conversation with a stranger can at times be awkward and difficult, but you will be admired and respected for making a good impression.
Speaking of confidence, make this your expertise. Believe in yourself. You are a qualified professional and you have success stories to share. If you don’t have a success story, get to work on one! People will believe in you as a professional if you believe in yourself.
2.DO - Find a Connection Point
Once the conversation is started, be prepared to ask others questions about themselves. People love to talk about themselves, and they will love you for giving them an opportunity to do it. Listen carefully, and take mental notes to use later. Listen for a point to follow-up. For example, if they have experience in a field or skill you are interested in learning more about, use that to make a connection. Ask to exchange business cards so that you can meet up or shoot them an email to further discuss. Then, recall all of those mental notes you made about the person, and quickly jot them down on the back of the business card you just received. That way, you will have meaningful conversation starters when you follow-up later (we said “when”, see what we did there).
Bring a few necessary items with you, including the previously mentioned business cards and pen. In addition, you may want to bring mints, lip balm, tissues, and if you’re at a networking event, bring some extra cash and offer to buy someone a beer if it’s not already complimentary. You’re sure to make a friend or two that way.
3. DO - Be Proactive
Pursue and say yes to as many networking opportunities as possible. If you arrive equipped and confident, no networking event will be a waste of time. When you are at these events, be proactive in engaging through the end. If you persevere through the finish, you’ll be left with access to the other “persever-ers” – the type of people you want to in your network.
4. DO - Connect Again
Do proactively use social media during the event. If there’s a hashtag, USE IT! This will open up social and in-person conversations and additional networking opportunities.
After collecting names and business cards and adding your own personal notes, it’s time to follow-up. Add your new connections on LinkedIn. Follow them on Twitter. You never know who will be your future boss, colleague or client someday.
5. DO – Help Others Connect
Try being proactive for others as well. Although attending a networking event can seem somewhat self-serving, it doesn’t have to be that way. Look for opportunities to help the people you met by extending some of your resources to them. That could be connecting them with leaders in your field or old co-workers looking for something new, or lending something they need, such as space or equipment. Your help could pay off in the long run, or it could simply be an act of kindness (which we all need once in awhile).
6. DO - Be Your Best Self
Go to networking events that suit you and your goals. There are plenty of events to choose from - everything from traditional mixers and dinners to networking bowling and team challenges. Find networking events where you can be confident and comfortable.
Further, be your BEST self. Dress and groom well. Be friendly and smile. Bring a friend or coworker along who empowers and encourages you. Be inviting to people in the room who look stiff and uncomfortable. Eat only mild food at the event and drink responsibly. You want to be able to stay in control of your image while making first impressions, and part of that is being wise about how you carry yourself at the event.
Be your best self online, too. Clean up your social media and online profiles, especially LinkedIn, before going to events. Proof-read every email you send while following-up with new connections.
Networking opportunities are a great way to re-focus your goals, make new connections, and find new ways to challenge yourself professionally. Be prepared, proactive, and yourself, and you will find that networking can be a valuable tool for success and growth.
By being prepared, you will help yourself avoid falling into the following DON’TS: don’t stand alone on your phone in the back of the room; don’t make negative comments about the event or people attending; don’t brag, but state more facts and dreams you have; and don’t try to sell a product while you should be focusing on getting your personal message or your organization’s message communicated.
Good Luck & Happy Networking!
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