In my opinion, networking can be a bit of a disingenuous process. People tend to want to network with you for what you can give them: introductions to the right people or organizations. That said, making the right connections is an important part of business and in a way, a necessary evil. My advice may sound counterculture, but I believe that when you take the right approach to networking you’ll stand out from the crowd and reap the benefits. Here are a few ways I like to think about networking:
Focus on what you can give
When you’re trying to make a meaningful connection with someone think about how you can help them with either their career or business. Tailor your elevator pitch to whom ever you’re speaking with. If you take the approach of solving their problem first, you’ll automatically build goodwill with someone who will be much more likely to return the favor. Remember: people enjoy helping those they can connect with on a personal level.
Only network with a select few people
I often see people at cocktail receptions or conferences running themselves ragged trying to meet everyone in the room. I like to take the opposite approach, meeting only a select few people, and building deeper relationships with them during the course of the evening. This approach allows you to know those handful of people on a more personal level, creating a genuine connection that’s bound to have a lasting impression. And you’re building a community of contacts who’ll remember you in the long haul.
Talk less, listen more
It’s normal to feel like you have to dominate a conversation and highlight all your key accomplishments when you meet someone for the first time; you want to make an good impression. That said, my recommendation is to ask smart questions and get the person you’re networking with to do more of the talking. Again, it’s important to fine-tune your elevator pitch to make it’s as relevant as possible to the individual opposite you, while also clearly articulating who you are. If someone feels heard, they’ll likely walk away from the conversation with a very positive memory of you. And lets be honest, everyone likes talking about themselves!
Follow-up in a timely manner
Following-up with the people you meet at your networking event is essential to building a lasting relationships. Make sure to reach out to your new contact via email or a hand-written note so that they know how to reach you. This step is often lost in the busyness of life, but it’s an important one as it’ll help solidify the new relationship you’ve recently made.