In order to grow as a person, brand or business, you must develop the necessary networking skills. It is important to be prepared to meet new people, network and build new contacts especially in your field as they serve as building blocks for future successes.
Not everybody can comfortably relate or start conversations with complete strangers so here are some useful tips to take to your next networking event.
1. Plan ahead
Although you expect to be natural, spontaneous and cool, it is however an additional advantage if you go into a networking event with a plan. Do your research about the event as well as its attendees in order to come up with relevant questions to ask.
2. Don’t overthink it
The idea of “networking” can sometimes be overwhelming, your mind is filled with constant thoughts about meeting new people, giving a proper introduction of yourself, exchanging contact information, etc. However, you shouldn’t feel so much pressure, calm down and be yourself and once you get over those initial nerves and become confident, you’ll gradually begin to get the hang of it.
3. Quality over quantity
Don’t go into a networking event with a plan of talking to or making friends with 25 or 30 people. Network with those who will definitely be of importance to your brand or person because in the end, one quality conversation could be more beneficial than 20 superficial ones.
4. You’re there to meet new people
The idea of networking is to meet new people, exchange ideas, get new perspective and create relationships. Therefore, while your initial instinct might be to hang by people you know, it is a bad idea. Walk around, talk to new people, but be polite about it, and if you feel bad about not talking to those you already know, say a pleasant hello to them and move on the fresh faces.
5. Listen and ask questions
While you want to sell yourself to those you meet, try as much as possible to listen more. People love to talk about themselves, so let them talk. Ask questions about their life, family, work, hobbies etc, but gauge the scenario to ascertain what kind of questions to ask. Use this to establish an initial camaraderie and then build on it.
6. Don’t forget to follow up
It is not enough to meet people at an event, go the extra mile by cautiously following up on those new friends. Send brief emails where you remind the person of who you are, reference one or two of the subjects you discussed about before you ask them for what you need. More so, if possible schedule break fast or lunch with them. The idea is to build on the relationships and ensure that they last, else, the purpose of networking in the first place is defeated.
7. Do it more often
The more you go out, meet people and create relationships, the better you get at it. It doesn’t have to be a large gathering, it could be any place where people of legitimate value are gathered. Just talk to people.