With the growing popularity of online networking, it can be easy to forget the value of making in-person connections. Whether you're trying to develop your personal career or build connections to help your business, there is still something invaluable about face-to-face networking. With the right attitude and preparation, you'll be ready to make the most of any face-to-face networking opportunity.
Although networking isn't always easy, it doesn't have to be difficult either. In fact, with the right strategies, networking can be an exciting, rewarding experience that can open doors to incredible opportunities. In this blog, you'll learn 10 networking strategies you need to start using today to make the most of your networking efforts. These strategies will help you take the lead in those uncomfortable networking situations, so you can make the most of every opportunity to create meaningful connections.
1. Network before an event.
Attending a networking event can be a great way to make valuable connections and build professional relationships. However, networking doesn’t just start when you walk into the event; it should begin before you even arrive. By networking beforehand, you can maximize the effectiveness of the event and make sure that you get the most out of your experience. Before the event, you can reach out to people who are attending and introduce yourself. This will help you build relationships before the event and give you the opportunity to connect with people you would like to meet.
You can also research the event and see who is attending and what their professional interests are. This will help you to be better prepared and give you ideas for conversation starters. Additionally, you can reach out to the event organizers and find out more about the event and what to expect. By networking before the event, you can ensure that you make the most of the opportunity and make valuable connections. You can also showcase your professionalism to other attendees and give yourself a competitive edge. So, make sure you network before attending a networking event and maximize the effectiveness of your experience.
2. Come prepared with a clearly defined goal in mind.
The next time you attend an event, take the time to consider who you want to meet and why. Event registration sites often list all of the attendees, so take a moment to scan the guest list. You could find potential clients, mentors, or even potential employees that you want to connect with.
For example, if you are the CMO of a successful law firm, and you want to leave the event with ten leads, having a specific goal in mind will keep you focused. It will also allow you to have more meaningful conversations with your new connections and make it easier to align your goals. Knowing who you want to meet and why can make all the difference when it comes to networking at events. So, make sure to take the time to think strategically before attending your next event.
3. Have conversation starters to break the ice.
Making a great first impression at a networking event can be intimidating. To make sure you start off on the right foot, take a few moments to prepare ahead of time. Consider what topics you're interested in discussing, and make sure to brush up on the latest industry news and trends. This will help you to spark engaging conversations with people you meet. When you arrive, look for someone who is also solo and looking for someone to talk to.
Begin by introducing yourself and asking questions like:
What do you do for work?
What brought you to this event?
Are you familiar with any of the speakers?
Talking one-on-one can be a great way to get comfortable before joining a larger group. If you're able to make a connection with your first conversation, you'll be more confident to approach bigger groups and start conversations that are relevant and engaging. The more you practice, the easier it will become. So don't be afraid to put yourself out there and start a conversation, it may just be the beginning of a new professional relationship.
4. Connect with those who have more experience than you.
Meeting a successful figure in person can be a daunting task. At networking events, we often enter with a little bit of star-struck awe, seeking to meet the CEO of a company we admire or the author of a book that has inspired us. But when we see them across the room, our confidence can suddenly vanish and leave us feeling awkward, sweaty, and nervous.
How can we successfully make a connection? It's important to remember that the other person is there for the same reason you are: to network and make meaningful connections. To make a successful introduction, have a purpose and bring something to the conversation. Rather than bumbling in to say how much you love their work, approach the person with confidence and introduce yourself as an equal. Consider what it is about them that resonated with you and tie it into your work, projects, or philosophy. Ask questions that invite stimulating conversation and give them a chance to admire you, too. Remember that you respect their thought leadership, so show them that your admiration is more than just fanfare. With the right approach, you can make a lasting impression and build a meaningful connection.
5. Don’t just talk, ask others questions about themselves.
Meeting someone new can be a stressful experience, especially when the conversation begins to run dry. To avoid the awkwardness that tends to follow, I've found that the best way to keep the conversation going is to make the other person the focus of the conversation. Ask engaging questions about their life, interests, and goals to show that you truly care about getting to know them.
While it's important to talk about yourself and your experiences, it's even more important to show that you're interested in the other person and want to hear what they have to say. Oftentimes, you'll find that by showing genuine interest in someone, the conversation will naturally flow and the connection between the two of you becomes much stronger.
6. Learn how to be a good listener.
Networking is a crucial aspect of any successful venture, and one of the most important skills to hone is active listening. We often become so focused on sharing our own stories and experiences that we neglect to truly listen to what others have to say. This is a critical mistake, as taking the time to genuinely listen to the other person demonstrates that you are sincerely interested in what they are saying and further strengthens the connection between you.
To practice active listening, start by paraphrasing their statements back to them. This allows the other person to know that you understand them and encourages them to keep speaking. Furthermore, inquiring further with thoughtful questions is a great way to show a genuine interest in the other person. Active listening is a fundamental tool in networking and will be the foundation for fruitful, meaningful relationships.
7. Ask for what you want without sounding aggressive.
Networking events are a great way to build relationships and expand our networks. We can meet potential investors, mentors, and clients, as well as find opportunities to grow our businesses and advance our careers. But the highlight of these events that we all dream of is the chance to make a tangible exchange that will take us closer to our goals. It might be getting an investor on board, locking down a recommendation letter, or sealing a deal with a desired client. However, to get to that highlight, we need to take initiative and make a strong case for ourselves.
The key here is to be confident and express what we want without coming across as aggressive. We should approach the situation as if we were answering the classic job interview question "Why should we hire you over the other candidates?" and frame our ask in a way that highlights the benefits for our listeners. By combining flexibility and confidence, we can make a strong case for why your company is the right fit for the job and make an impression that will help us reach our goals.
8. Take notes after each conversation.
Have you ever felt like you've just had the best conversation with someone and you can't wait to stay in touch, only to realize you can't remember their name when you go to follow up? We've all been there, but it doesn't have to be that way. Writing a personal note after each meaningful conversation is an easy and effective way to make sure you never forget an important conversation again.
It doesn't have to be anything elaborate, just a few sentences about who the person is and what you talked about. Not only will this help you to remember, but it will also show the other person that you value the conversation, and it helps to build strong relationships. So next time you have a great conversation, why not write a note to make sure you never forget?
9. Be patient in your conversations.
Networking is a great way to make valuable connections, but it is not a race to see how many people you can meet in a short amount of time. Instead, it is important to take the time to have meaningful conversations and build genuine relationships. That said, there may be times when you want to politely extricate yourself from a conversation. Whether it's because the person won't let you get a word in or they are whining about their job, you can still be polite when you wrap up the conversation. One way to do this is to express your interest in the person's work or project and ask them to keep you updated on its progress. You can also politely transition to someone else by asking if they have seen anyone from a specific company you're interested in. In this way, you are still showing that you value the connection but also want to expand your network.
10. Always follow up.
Networking is a great way to establish relationships with professionals in your field, but it’s only effective if you continue the conversation. To make a lasting impression, you need to take the initiative and reach out to the people you meet. Start by sending a personalized email or LinkedIn message within 24 hours of connecting. This will show that you’re invested and create a lasting impression. Then, take the next step and invite them to coffee or lunch so you can further connect. After that, stay in touch by sending occasional emails, reaching out via social media, or meeting up. Building relationships is a two-way street, and following up is a necessary part of the process. With effort and dedication, you’ll be able to create meaningful connections that will benefit you in the long run.
You have the tools to make a lasting impression and build meaningful relationships. By walking in with confidence and having a few conversation starters in mind, you can make an impactful entrance that will set the tone for the evening. Don’t forget to follow up with the people you meet and keep the conversations going. Keep in mind that networking events are an opportunity to expand your professional network, learn more about an industry, and explore potential opportunities. This is your chance to get out there and make something happen. Get ready to walk in with full confidence and get the most out of your next networking event!
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