Networking Success Tips
The Five Be-Attitudes of Successful Networking
by Dr. Minette Riordan
Effective networking is a skill that anyone can learn with patience and practice by following these 5 Be-Attitudes. For those of you familiar with the term “beatitude,” it is generally defined as perfect blessedness or happiness*. I feel that way about networking. I am energized by the people I meet, connecting with new and old friends, making lucrative business connections or simply being able to connect two other people to each other. I am blessed to have met so many amazing and wonderful people in my 8 years as an entrepreneur. I have built a successful business by focusing time, energy and joy on networking. To become a savvy networker and build your business the fun way, by doing business with people you know and like, practice the following five steps. Approach networking with an attitude of happiness and gratitude. Be open to whatever the experience may bring and enjoy the process.
1. Be prepared.
A. What is your primary reason for attending the event? Are you looking for inspiration, friendship, referral partners, sales? Be very clear what your intentions are before you go. Then spend time crafting a 30-second commercial that clearly articulates who you are, who you help and what you are looking for. If you would like a simple format for crafting a high quality and effective 30-second commercial, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a simple how-to guide. Or join me at the Diva Toolbox Conference in Boston in September for in person workshops!
B. Always bring extra business cards/flyers, etc. You never know what the format of the meeting might be and when you will need that extra 10 or 20 or 200 business cards. Do NOT walk up to people and just hand them your card and start talking. Take time to visit with them and see if you are both interested in exchanging cards out of mutual interest or a potential opportunity to do business together. (See step 3 for more about this.)
2. Be bold!
This is no time to be a wallflower. Make an effort to meet a few new people at each event. You don’t have to be outgoing, pushy, or a social butterfly, just relax and walk up to one person standing alone and introduce yourself. Remember, networking is a skill that can be acquired and perfected. Set a goal for yourself, start small, “Today I will introduce myself to at least 2 new people.” At a large conference, you have the chance to meet hundreds of people, which can be overwhelming, especially if you are not a natural networker. Instead, pick a few each day to spend some time with and get to know well. You will naturally gravitate to the people you most need to meet, so enjoy the experience and follow your inner guidance.
3. Be open.
The purpose of true, beneficial and profitable networking is to build referral partners and strategic relationships. Your attitude, as expressed in your 30-second commercial as well as your one on one conversations with people, should be one of education. Clearly and briefly articulating what you do and who you want to work with will help you build your business much more effectively than a sales pitch tossed at everyone you meet. That is why it is critical to tell people exactly WHO you are looking to meet. That person may or may not be at the same event as you, but the likelihood of someone in the room being able to give you the perfect referral is extremely high. Be open to meeting everyone, even if you don’t see an obvious business connection.
4. Be genuinely curious.
Everyone loves to be listened to. When you are at a traditional networking event, happy hour or conference, stop worrying about what you are going to say about YOU and focus on the other person. You will get your turn and if you don’t, move on quickly. When we actively listen to people, ask questions and show them that we are paying attention, we quickly build credibility, like-ability and respect. Be yourself, show interest and listen. This simple skill will allow you to zone in on who is a good strategic partner or potential client quickly. If you are not a match, you can move on to the next person, knowing you left that last person feeling great simply because you expressed genuine interest in them.
5. Be organized.
Follow up promptly. This is probably the most critical component of successful networking! Make sure that you respond to any requests for information, referrals, a follow up conversation or to set an appointment within 24 hours of meeting someone at a local networking event. At a multi-day conference, you should respond with 3 to 4 days after returning home. People are forgetful, we are all busy and our lives move very quickly. Show people that you were paying attention, that you respect their time and that you are genuinely interested in helping them in whatever way you can by following up with them quickly.
Before you attend your next networking event or conference, put some thought into these 5 steps. Relax, have fun and manage your expectations. Through repetition and education, you will see your business and your circle of friends grow quickly. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather do business with friends than strangers. That is what networking can do for you.