Whether you work in a business, own one or aspire to own one in the future, networking is an important way to meet people in your community. No matter where you live, there are always people that you can collaborate with or people that can help you along the way.
Here are 4 tips that will help you get the most out of your networking.
Recognize that networking opportunities are all around you: at a coffee shop, the gym or even at the checkout line of a grocery store. If you’re always open to meeting people then you’ll definitely meet more people, but you’ll also have more meaningful interactions. Everyone has their own story and their own skills.
Take take the time to really understand who someone is and why they do what they do, then reflect on what you admire most about them. Could you work on similar skills?
Next time you’re working at a coffee shop or in line at the grocery store, have a conversation with a stranger. It may take them by surprise at first, but the conversation may end up surprising the both of you. What do you have to lose?
Have you ever gone to a networking event and watched someone make their way around to everyone in the room as quickly as possible, passing out business cards? Repeat after me: don’t be that guy. Try talking to one or two people that are worth your time instead of passing out a stack of business cards to everyone in the room. The less time you spend speaking to each person, the more likely it is that those cards will end up in the trash.
People remember personalities, not sheets of paper with names and titles. If you want to take something meaningful away from each interaction then focus on quality, not quantity.
Next time you’re headed to an organized networking event, only bring five business cards. With a limited amount, you’ll be very cautious about who you give them to. And if you do happen to meet that sixth person worth the time just take their information and connect with them on LinkedIn or shoot them an email when you get back to the office.
This is a hard lesson to learn: not everyone that you meet is going to like you—and that’s okay. Don’t lose sleep over less than wonderful networking interactions. Sometimes I meet people that I get along with famously right off the bat, other times I leave networking events feeling deflated and like I wasted my time. I aim to meet one good connection at every event to call it a success.
Next time you meet someone that doesn’t give you the time of day, don’t take it personally. Just move on. I met one of my current clients ten times before he ever remembered my name… now he’s one of my favorite clients and best referrers. You’ll have plenty of these interactions within your lifetime and you’ll meet plenty of great people too.
So you’ve met some cool people and got their contact information—what now? To foster relationships, you have to follow up. And this follow-up can be in many different forms, like connecting on LinkedIn, following and sending a tweet, a personal email, a phone call or even a cup of coffee. Just make sure you keep in touch. After your first connection, send a quick message over social media every now and then, have another cup of coffee, lunch or dinner. It’s important to keep the relationships in your network active.
Look through old business cards or peruse your LinkedIn profile; who haven’t you spoken to in awhile that you’d like to contact again? Give them a call. You have nothing to lose and a relationship to gain.
Networking takes place every day. It’s a constant activity and everyone should treat it as such. In my experience, business professionals that are always open to meeting others have the most meaningful, long-lasting relationships and strongest networks.
What techniques have you used to improve your personal and business networks? Let me know by joining the conversation on Twitter.