Archive for March, 2010

Networking is More than a Cardboard Connection!

Tips for making your networking more effective and more fun

What do you think of when you hear the word networking?

Networking is a term used all the time. Most professional meetings set aside time for networking. Why? One possible use of networking time is to catch up with friends and colleagues. However, if you are interested in career advancement or are an entrepreneur who seeks to build your business, networking time is an ideal opportunity to meet new people and make new relationships. Did you know an estimated 20-25 percent of available jobs are listed in newspapers, trade journals, or employment offices? The remaining 75 percent of jobs today are a result of networking according to

How do you make networking-time productive and fun?

Many people approach networking in the wrong way. Some consider networking as a time to talk all about themselves and their businesses in effort to get a sale. We have all met these people and our goal may be to figure out how to avoid them.

Then there are those who are uncomfortable networking so they sit in the corner, chat with friends, or have some snacks and then leave-or maybe they don’t show up at all. This is a lost opportunity.

Networking takes on a new look when you think about it as simply building relationships. These relationships may turn into new business, a new job, or even a new friend some time in the future.

Practical Application

Here are networking tips you can use whenever the opportunity to meet new people presents itself.

  1. Don’t Give Out Your Business Card. Don’t just build a cardboard connection by giving everyone you meet your business card and consider that networking. Do not give out your business card unless you are asked. When someone asks for your card that means s/he has an interest in what you do and will keep it. Otherwise, it will probably get tossed or lost. Be sure you get the cards of those you want to start building a relationship.
  2. Be Interested before being Interesting. It’s not all about you. People will connect with you more easily if you express interest in them and their business needs, issues, and success.
  3. Ask Questions. Everyone likes to talk about her/himself. Asking open-ended questions is a great way to learn and connect with others.
  4. Be Authentic. Be yourself. Be genuine when asking questions and listening. Don’t approach networking like a contest or performance.
  5. Be Positive. Accentuate the positive. Complaining is a turn off. Find something good to say even if you are not satisfied with the speaker, venue, food, etc. Others enjoy being around positive people. Be the “cup is half-full” type.
  6. Be Well-Read. Being fluent in topics in the news, issues in your industry, or recent bestseller business books. This information can be a good conversation starter and the basis of a discussion, especially with a new contact.
  7. Be a problem solver. Listen to other person to uncover their business needs. Think, "How can I help?" Suggest resources. Offer to help them solve problems or put them in contact with someone you know who may be able to help.
  8. Who Knows You - Not Who You Know. Introduce yourself to others. When you ask a question in a meeting or seminar, stand up (if it is a large group), and always introduce yourself prior to asking the question. Asking questions is a way to get “face time” with the group. Make sure it is a meaningful question. Never start with “this may be a dumb question but…” it minimizes the value of what you say.
  9. Have a Presence. Create an impression. Do this by the way you dress, the way you speak, act, shake hands, and move about the room. Wear an interesting (and appropriate) piece of clothing, or a distinctive accessory. This can be a conversation starter and make you more memorable. Pay attention to what your body language is saying.
  10. Don’t Cling! Circulate. Don’t talk to only one person or just your friends at a networking event. Go up to others and introduce yourself …especially if this is a stretch for you.
  11. Have an Exit Strategy. When someone is clinging to you, because you are friendly and easy to talk with, you will need a way to break free. One technique that works is to invite the clinger to circulate with you. It is easier than just walking away. Simply say, “I want to go over and talk to________ why don’t you join me and I’ll introduce you.”
  12. Follow up. If you have offered to provide a resource or contact, follow up in a timely fashion. For highly valued contacts, send a follow up e-mail with a resource or comment on a key point from your conversation. This will keep you on their radar screen and in their database.
  13. Stay in touch. Have a strategy to stay connected to key contacts. Staying in touch is as easy as forwarding a link to an interesting website, a program, or an article. Attentive listening and asking questions will help you know what is of interest. This will keep your network warm. A good idea is a magazine or newspaper clipping with a personal note.
  14. Elevator Speech. When you make new contacts, you must have the answer the question “What do you do?” ready to roll off your tongue in a clear and concise way. For tip sheet on developing your elevator speech, sometimes called a thirty- second commercial contact Message line- E-Speech Tip Sheet.

Coaching Tips

These 14 suggestions will help you know how to be a more effective at networking. They will not help you overcome fears or resistance to networking. If you are shy or introverted and dislike networking you must stop the negative chatter in your head telling you “I’m not good at this” or “I don’t like to do this.” Then overcome your resistance, which is usually based in fear. Examine what it is that you are resisting. Finally, follow the advice of Susan Jeffers in her best selling book “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway.”

( You can read my review of her book here.)

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