The old adage ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ has some merit, and the people who excel at networking and communicating often find themselves more connected and in the loop for opportunities.
‘Networking’ is the lingo used to describe situations where you can make a connection and impression on potential key professional contacts. This may be a formal event, industry meeting, or even a spontaneous connection at a coworking or shared office space.
Regardless of the event, meeting, or opportunity, it’s important to make the most of it. Here are some of our top tips for networking like a pro.
1. Set your intentions before the event
- Why are you going?
- What’s the outcome you hope to achieve by attending?
- Who do you need to meet to help move your business forward?
- Are you looking for a mentor, a business partner, a joint venture partner, or something else?
Notice we didn’t say ‘client’.
In networking it becomes very obvious (and off-putting) if someone is only there for themselves.
Ask yourself if your time is best spent chatting with other participants, or if you should invest your time and energy getting to know the organisers and key influencers.
2. Focus on building relationships, not getting contacts or leads
Once you know who you want to connect with, it’s important to go in with the right mindset.
Remove yourself from the equation. Ask ‘what’s in it for them?’ to identify how you could add value to the other person’s business, network, or relationships.
This is a far better framework to start building productive relationships. Not all will result in immediate business benefits, but over time you can build your networks and relationships, fostering them and allowing you to ask for valuable advice from successful people you respect.
Keep in mind that the value of a relationship is not just about money. If someone has a powerful network, then building rapport and trust, and helping them achieve their goals could lead a favourable situation.
3. Show up as the best version of yourself
If you’re a natural introvert, this is not a green light to hide in the corner.
You want to be relaxed, natural and real when talking to someone. This is particularly important when trying to connect with someone you might view as ‘above’ you in some way.
It’s important to recognise that they were once new in their industry too, and people are, at the end of the day, all human.
Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend recommends the 3-second rule:
“When you see someone interesting to talk to, you have three seconds to walk up and say hello. Wait longer and you’ll either overthink it and screw it up or overthink it and never approach. Not sure what to say? It doesn’t matter. Anything is better than nothing, because it takes you from being a no-name in a sea of faces to being an actual person with a story (who had the courage to say hello).”
4. Listen, don’t pitch
Your job is to listen and ask questions, so leave your elevator pitch at home.
Jeffery Slayter says the person who asks questions in a conversation holds the power, but this doesn’t mean it’s time to ask random questions as a power-play. Make sure you ask questions to help you understand what’s important to the other person.
- What are their core values?
- Are they all about family?
- Do they love to travel or play sport?
- What challenges are they facing that they could use some help with?
It may seem odd to consider these questions at a networking event, but when you can find one thing to bond over, it builds rapport.
5. Follow up and follow through
In the world of business, integrity is a valuable currency.
If you say you’re going to do something (like connect a person to someone else, send an email, book a meeting), then follow through. Ideally do it within a few days, so the memory of your meeting is still fresh in both your minds.