How to make the most of your networking opportunities
As the old saying goes, “It’s not what you know but who you know that counts.” Networking is about building the “who you know.” It’s about creating links between people we know and people they want to know, and at the same time, it helps us find ways to help those who help us create these link-ups.
Mastering the skill of power networking requires more than just schmoozing and collecting cards at local events. Good networkers don’t simply try to gather more connections than everyone else — they go for quality connections, and they know the cardinal rule is to give before you get.
It’s not about keeping score. Often people do more for their business friends than they get in return, but as the saying goes, “What goes around comes around.” Think about the six degrees of separation. We all know people who know people we need to know.
Often, several networking opportunities present themselves around the same time, so we may have to do our homework to decide which one works best for us. We need to ask the following questions:
- What type of event is it?
- Who’s sponsoring it?
- Is it strictly for networking or is it a business presentation?
- What’s the time frame?
- Who will likely attend?
- What benefits can we expect if we choose this networking opportunity?
- Will it be worth our time?
It’s very easy to get caught saying yes to every possible opportunity, but once we know what to expect, we can choose where to spend our time.
Now, how do we make a graceful exit from a conversation? Here’s what some experts do:
- Mention something meaningful about the conversation you had.
- Say that since there are many others in attendance, you would both be remiss if you didn’t try to meet a few more people.
- Say, “Would you excuse me for a bit?”
- Say, “I’m going to get a drink. Would you like one?”
- Introduce the person to another attendee, and make your exit.
Social media is a hot trend in networking today. It can be a great tool for those who don’t like face-to-face connections. With social media, one can get a lot of people’s attention, but their attention span is very short. Sending a long message doesn’t work. If you’re depending on social media to build your network, you have to start by clarifying what you want early in the messages you send.
In his book Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi writes, “We live in a fast-paced, digital world that bombards us with information. Our inboxes are a constant procession of new and old names demanding our attention. Our brains are in constant overdrive trying to keep track of all the bits and bytes and names that cross our desk each and every day. It’s natural that to stay sane, we must forget or ignore most of the data clamoring for a sliver of real estate in our already overcrowded noggins.”
He goes on to say, “When you meet someone with whom you want to establish a relationship, take the extra little step to ensure you won’t be lost in their mental attic.”
In other words, take time to follow up with your new connections.
Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.