Let's face it, networking can be daunting. It's like speed dating for business, but instead of finding a soulmate, you're trying to find clients, partners, referrals, and mentors. It's like going to the gym - you know you should do it, but it can be hard to get started.
But fear not, fellow networkers! Here are 10 techniques to help you navigate the world of business networking:
1. Be yourself
, unless you're a serial criminal. Then maybe don't be yourself. But for the rest of us, authenticity is key. People can smell a fake a mile away, so don't try to be someone you're not. Unless you're Batman. Being Batman is always cool.
2. Build genuine relationships
. This is not a numbers game. It's not about how many business cards you can collect, it's about the connections you make. So take the time to get to know people and find common ground. And if you both like cats, even better! By taking the time to truly get to know the people you meet you will be more likely to build a lasting connection.
3. Follow up, but don't be a stalker
. You don't want to be that person who sends 20 emails and calls 10 times in one day. That's creepy. But do make an effort to keep in touch with your contacts. It's crucial to make a point of following up with your contacts after meeting them, whether it be through a phone call, email, or LinkedIn message. This will help you to keep the conversation going and continue to build your relationship. Maybe send a funny meme every now and then. Who doesn't love a good meme?
4. Be of service, but don't be a doormat
. You want to help people, but you also want to make sure you're not taken advantage. This is essential when you're serving others. Remember, being of service doesn't mean sacrificing your own well-being or allowing others to disrespect you or to push you to do something you don’t want to do. So, offer your expertise and resources, but set boundaries. And if someone tries to sell you a time share, run. Just run.
5. Attend networking events
, but don't be a wallflower. It can be tempting to hide in a corner with a plate of free appetizers, but that's not going to get you anywhere. So put on your best smile, grab a drink, and start mingling. And if someone spills their drink on you, don't worry, it's just liquid confidence. Attending networking events is a great way to meet new people and make connections.
6. Leverage social media, but don't be a troll
. Social media can be a great way to connect with people butit can also be a minefield of trolls. So, use it wisely. Post helpful content, engage with others, and don't get into Twitter fights. Trust me, it's not worth it.Platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook provide opportunities to connect with other professionals, share your expertise and learn from others. By building your online presence, you can expand your network and increase your visibility.
7. Join networking groups
, but don't join a social club unless you simply need more friends (in which case you might consider just buying a dog). You want to make sure you're joining groups that align with your values and goals. You also want to focus on real networking notjust hanging out in a coffee klatch. These groups provide opportunities to meet other professionalsand gain access to valuable resources.Joining networking groups like a Chamber of Commerce or BNI can provide a structure and focus that allows entrepreneurs to be more effective in their networking efforts.
8. Offer value,
but don't offer your kidney. Okay, that might be another extreme example, but you want to make sure you're offering something that's valuable without giving away the farm. Maybe it's a helpful tool or a connection to someone in your network. And if someone asks for your kidney, well, maybe it's time to leave that networking event.
9. Utilize referrals
, but don't be a name-dropper. Referrals can be a great way to expand your network, but don't go around dropping names like they're hot potatoes. Be respectful of your contacts' privacy and only make introductions when it makes sense. And if someone drops a name you don't recognize, just smile and nod. It's okay, you can Google them later.
10. Attend industry events, but don't be a snob
. It's great to attend events that are focused on your industry or interests, as they provide an opportunity to network with like-minded individuals and learn from experts in your field. Niche events can also give you insights into new trends and technologies that you might not have been aware of otherwise.
It's important to network with an open mind. Don't dismiss people who may not have the same level of expertise or experience as you. Instead, approach conversations with a willingness to learn from others and share your own knowledge and insights.
This process is really about building relationships and finding ways to help others, not just promoting yourself. So be genuine, listen actively, and try to make meaningful connections with the people you meet. You never know where these relationships might lead to in the future.
Networking doesn't have to be a chore. By building genuine relationships, being authentic, following up, being of service, attending networking events, leveraging social media, and joining associations and networking groups, you can network with humor and style. Just remember to keep it real, be helpful, and have a good time. After all, a smile is one of the best networking tools.
- By Dr. Ivan Misner
Called the “father of modern networking” by CNN, Dr. Misner is a New York Times bestselling author. He is also the Founder of BNI (www.bni.com), the world’s largest business networking organization. His latest book, Who’s in Your Room 2nd Edition, is a book about the secret to creating your best life.