In the professional world, knowing how to properly work a crowd and cultivate valuable relationships out of networking experiences is an important skill. A skill that many lack, but every professional should know because networking can ultimately impact a company’s bottom line.
“The more presence you have in a community, the larger your pool of potential buyers,” said Sean Cafferky, Director of Internet Strategy at BrandExtract.
Below is a quick lesson to help anyone succeed in networking and to help alleviate some of the anxiety people may have about the process of networking.
1. Arrive Early
Arriving early is an important first step. According to Forbes.com writer, Jenna Goudreau, arriving early and starting conversations with the early birds automatically puts you into the middle of the party as others arrive.
Showing up to a crowded room of people already engaged in conversation is an intimidating feeling, so arriving early is a perfect solution to this common dilemma.
2. Arrive Alone
Meeting new people is an important part of working a room, so I don’t recommend bringing a buddy. Showing up alone gives you the freedom to move about a room and start conversations with many new people.
If you have a friend tagging along, it is likely that you may neglect an opportunity to spark up conversations with others.
3. Stay Tuned In
Showing respect by listening to people when they are speaking to you is extremely important. The sooner you get to know the person you are talking to, the sooner you can identify to value of the relationship.
Another tip on staying tuned in is to ask questions. By asking questions, it helps you get involved in the conversation and shows you are interested in what the person is saying. Also, listening well can help you identify opportunities to offer help. By helping out where needed, you can make yourself an invaluable resource to others, which will make you stand out.
4. Take Notes
One of my bosses has given me the advice to take a few quick notes on the back of business cards.
By doing this, it helps me remember the people I meet at networking events and remember pieces of the conversation or fact about the person that I may want to refer back to later when I send a follow up e-mail. A person can meet hundreds of people during events, so taking notes is enormously helpful.
5. Follow Up
Networking needs follow up to be most effective.
Goudreau recommends sending an e-mail the next day after an event. This e-mail should show gratitude for their time speaking with you, and it can be used to expand on the conversation you had.
Also recommended is to reach out to the person a couple of weeks later to remind them of your conversation and add to it with a related article or examples of work you have done. This would also be a good time to request a meeting to discuss how you may be able to provide support to their business. Don’t forget to always look for opportunities to help out.
There are many tutorials and advice you can find online to help you meet people in professional events. This was a short list, but if you follow these five guidelines, you will be one step closer to being an expert networker, which can ultimately help drive business for your company.
Goudreau, Jenna. ‘Networking Survival Tips’. 1/6/2010. http://www.forbes.com/2010/01/06/networking-event-conversation-forbes-woman-net-worth-relationship.html