There is an old saying, “It is not what you know, it is who you know.” You can significantly increase your chances of success in almost any field if you know or can get in touch with the right people. Most jobs are not advertised, they are filled through personal contacts. Most important business deals are done person-to-person. This is the power of networking. You can network over the internet using social media sites and LinkedIn. You can also network face-to-face either with friends and colleagues or with strangers who become new contacts. You can meet new people at networking events such as trade shows, exhibitions, professional association meetings, chambers of commerce, etc. Let’s focus on these kinds of opportunities. Here are some tips to improve your face-to-face networking.
1. Network with a purpose.
Do not go to a networking meeting aimlessly. Have a purpose. Your goal is to meet people that you can help and people who can help you. You do not know who they are yet, so you have to mix with a fair number to improve your chances. But you must have an overall goal. It helps other people to help you if they know what you are looking for.
2. Smile and be friendly.
Don’t be too serious. People might see you as threatening if you are too intense and plunge straight into a heavy topic. Lighten up a little and give people your best smile.
3. Seek first to listen, then to tell.
Start with a friendly, safe question. Ask about themselves and their interests. Gradually, the conversation will turn to you, and then you can give a little background and introduce your focus. Remember that you are there to help others and that you have useful information and contacts for some of the people you meet.
4. Take business cards.
Always have plenty of business cards. If you are out of work and looking for opportunities, have some cards printed with your name, email, and phone number. You can leave the title blank or put ‘consultant’ or ‘looking for the next opportunity.’ It is important to exchange cards with people so that the contact details are not forgotten.
Don’t stay the whole time making comfortable small talk with the first group you meet. After a while make a polite excuse e.g., “Nice to meet you, but please excuse me. There is someone else I need to speak to.” Move around the room spending, say, 10 minutes with each new person. You will find that you can leave conversations without being brusque. Networking means circulating, and most of the people at the meeting are aware of this.
6. Follow up.
Always email the people you met within a couple of days of meeting them. Remind them of what you are interested in and offer to help. Ask if they would like to link on LinkedIn. Try not to send a standard email. Mention something you discussed.
Build your network list using email follow-up, LinkedIn, and other social media. Send people useful links and other information. Politely ask people in your network for help when you need contacts or information. Stay in touch and help other people to connect. You can become an expert networker and connector. It will help you to be successful.
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