A supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest
verb (used without object)
To cultivate people who can be helpful to one professionally, especially in finding employment or moving to a higher position
1. Be prepared
Ask yourself what your goals are in participating in networking meetings.
Have a 30 second “elevator” speech to introduce yourself that you know inside and out.
The most important part of the introduction beside your name and possibly your title/area of interest in business, etc. (the first sentence) is the second sentence which is reflected to “what makes you memorable/what is the one thing you want to be known for”. This will help the person you are networking remember you and increases the possibility that they could help you in the near future if an opportunity arises.
Hello, my name is XXXX, and I am an experienced XXXXX (insert your area(s) of expertise such as product developer, account manager, etc. and any positions on volunteer boards you may hold). I am best known for XXXXX ( Insert one statement about what you stand for (if you can) or what your (work/life/career) passion is. As a result, I am currently looking for XXXXX (whatever you would like to achieve such as networking goal for the event).
Be able to articulate what you are looking for, and how others may help you. Too often people in conversations ask, “How may I help you?” and no immediate answer comes to mind. Also remember that the people in the room may not be the people who can help you, but they may know people to introduce you to that could be of assistance.
Research the topic of the meeting/presentation so that you can carry on a conversation about it, how it affects you/your business etc. It can be an ice breaker to get the networking conversation started.
Body language counts: Smile, look people in the eyes. Have a firm handshake. Stand/sit tall.
2. During Networking events
Keep in mind that networking is about being genuine and authentic, building trust and relationships, and seeing how you can help others.
Sit with people you don’t know. When you sit with people you do not know you are forced to meet people and focus on the topic. Try to join a group of people that also look like they don’t know each other. Groups from the same company etc. may be more focussed on their own needs than networking with others.
Ask open-ended questions in networking conversations. This means questions that ask who, what, where, when, and how as opposed to those that can be answered with a simple yes or no. This form of questioning opens up the discussion and shows listeners that you are interested in them.
Have lots of business cards available to hand out. At an event, have one pocket filled with your own business cards and the other pocket empty to put new cards into.
Become known as a resource for others. When you are known as a strong resource, people remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, names of other people, etc. This keeps you visible to them.
Be ready to introduce people to others that may be able to help them.
3. After the event
Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Respect and honor that and your referrals will grow.
Call those you meet who may benefit from what you do and vice versa. Express that you enjoyed meeting them, and ask if you could get together and share ideas.
Do it all again: To network successfully, takes practice.
Contributors: Sanja Kivac, Jane Mangat, Tina Parise, Barbara Onyskow, Carol Zweig, Donna Messor
“10 Tips for Successful Business Networking” by Stephanie Speisman (www.businessknowhow.com)