Learning how to network effectively can be incredibly beneficial when it comes to advancing your career. But if you’re approaching networking events with the wrong expectations—or if the thought of approaching strangers intimidates you—you likely are not building relationships that will lead to future business success. If you’re leaving networking events feeling disappointed, here’s some advice on how to make the most from mixers and meet-ups.
—Emily Kern Hebert
Laurie Lipsey Aronson
Networking events can be extremely beneficial if you go about them the right way and with the right attitude. It’s imperative to step out of your comfort zone if you’re not comfortable initiating conversation.
Always be yourself, and never start with a sales pitch. Having eye contact is critical. It’s wise to strike up a conversation with anyone you come in contact with. Don’t waste your time trying to identify the “ideal” person to speak to; speak to all. I give that advice all of the time.
Networking is not just for networking events. Airports and restaurants are great places to say hello. You never know who you will meet. Take advantage of those opportunities when you come face-to-face with others. Remember, you’re not just networking with those people, but you are also networking with their connections as well.
Owner, The Day Group
Networking events can sometimes seem futile if you don’t adopt two things: Perspective and strategy.
First, get an accurate perspective. Networking is essentially building advocates for your business and for you personally. It’s not about getting orders. If you approach it as an opportunity to meet someone from whom you can learn, share and who will perhaps introduce you to someone else, then it could be a good day.
Strategically, you have to know what you want, and you need to know how to communicate it. People usually want to help, but many times they don’t fully understand what you do. When someone asks, “What do you do?” be ready to tell them in a clear, concise and compelling way. Avoid memorizing; you may come off as fake.
A final thought: Give more than you get. Try to focus on giving leads and helping others when you network, not just on what you get in return. In business as in life, you reap what you sow. Enjoy the relationship. Make friends. Become an advocate for them. You will do more good, have more contacts and enjoy your work more when you focus on others.
Executive director, Louisiana Technology Park
First, make sure you are going to the right events. For example, if you are looking for sales for your IT company, it doesn’t make sense to go to an IT meet-up. You might do better going to a civic or chamber event where your customers are. Make sure your tactics align with your strategy.
Second, understand that the power of one network isn’t just that one person, but the people they know and then the people they know. It’s easy to dismiss a person within 30 seconds if you feel like the person isn’t a lead, but don’t do that. Keep on talking because you never know when a friend of a friend could become a client.
And finally, always have business cards and be able to access them easily. Nothing is more awkward than having to wait on someone to find a business card in a purse or a George Costanza wallet.