10 Foolproof Networking Tips for Beginners and Pros Alike
Networking is an essential skill for professionals at any stage of their career journey. With over 15 years in sales, I've found myself at countless networking events. Let's face it, the term "networking" can sound somewhat sterile and even intimidating.
According to the Oxford dictionary, networking is defined as:
🤦🏽 This particular definition captures why so many people find networking unenjoyable—it's rooted in a transaction, focused almost solely on the outcome. For someone new to networking, that pressure can be overwhelming. How do you go from point A (meeting a stranger) to point B (securing them as a new client)?
🤝 So, let's take a step back from this definition. Let's focus solely on the first step: building and nurturing relationships, usually with others in your industry or field. Just that first piece of the puzzle.
📖 After reading Priya Parker's "The Art of Gathering," it struck me that many networking-focused events feel awkward because the organizers haven't intentionally crafted them as gatherings. How many times have you attended a conference, only for the day to conclude with a "networking happy hour," where you're left to grab a drink and hope your journey around the room leads to a meaningful conversation? (Cue the plastered smile and probing eye contact.)
All this is to say that if YOU feel awkward, rest assured, others do too. Use this as an opportunity to inject your personal touch into the event. Ask yourself, "How can I make this experience more enjoyable for others?"
💡 With that in mind, here are 10 networking tips:💡
- Think Outside the Box: Networking doesn't have to be limited to conference happy hours. Do you enjoy volunteer work, Toastmasters, continuing education classes, meditation, or exercise? Explore clubs, meet-ups, and events related to your genuine interests. You'll meet like-minded people.
- Research Attendees: Just as you have many facets to your personality, so do others. A bit of pre-event research can uncover common interests to use as conversation starters.
- Prepare Conversation Starters: Have a few questions ready. Ask something that both you and the other person would find interesting to discuss. (This is where your research can be a lifesaver.)
- Set Small Goals: If it's your first time networking, aim to genuinely connect with just one person. Building confidence, like any skill, requires practice.
- Combat Anxiety: After achieving your networking goal, reward yourself. Stop for your favorite beverage on the way home or call a dear friend in the car. Make it something you'll look forward to.
- Embrace Introversion: Remember, you won't be the only introvert in the room! Focus on finding a one-on-one conversation and take breaks as needed.
- Craft Your Elevator Pitch: While your focus is on connecting, always have your 60-second elevator pitch ready. Tailor it to your audience; different events may require different versions.
- Share Contact Information Clearly: Ensure your professional online presence, like LinkedIn or your website, is up to date. When asked, direct people to the best way to get in touch.
- Follow Up: Don't drop the ball on post-networking follow-up. Build on your genuine connection. Were you discussing their upcoming trip to Paris? Send them a link to that restaurant you've been meaning to recommend.
- Nurture the Relationship: If they could be a potential client, understand how your product or service can genuinely help them. Be mindful of their pain points and reach out when it's a relevant conversation for them.
I'm curious—what questions do you have about networking, or perhaps, do you have a real-life networking success story to share?