Networking Tips for the New Year

Network, network, network… We hear that we are supposed to be doing it, but it can be tough when we are juggling so many responsibilities or haven’t put ourselves out there in a while. Questions begin to come up like; Where do you find the right events? How do you start conversations? What should you do after you meet someone new?

Here are a few of my favorite tips that help me get out of the isolation tank, and back in with the networking fish.

You Can find Events Anywhere

I tend to gravitate toward Meetup.com for most of my research. You can become a free member, and find groups that meet regularly. When you join those groups, the notifications come into your email inbox and act as a nice little reminder.  A lot of my friends use Facebook events, and I will occasionally check there too. To be honest, Facebook is like a black hole of death for me!  Once I log in, it is like something has invaded my brain and taken over!  I immediatley forget what I was doing there because I get so captivated with the sweet pictures of my besties little baby!  *Does that only happen to me?

If you are a member of an Alumni Association, you might be surprised at how many useful networking events they have access to.  LinkedIn is also a very powerful tool as long as you make certain that you are joining the right groups.

One of my favorite ways to meet new people is by attending local  conferences.  You already have something in common with the other attendees and that creates a nice easy way to start up a meaningful conversation.

Make a list of your favorite 10 Networking events for each month, and set yourself a goal of attending at least 1 per week.

Start Your Own

To make things even more convenient, invite three friends.  Ask each of them to invite three of their friends and meet at a bar, someones home, or even a coworking space.

Bring Your Cards

A great tool to carry with you at all times is your business card.  It sounds pretty simple, but can I tell you how often I am out and about, and I ask for someones card only to hear “Oh.. I forgot them!” It sort of makes me wonder how they are remembering all of the wonderful people they just meet…

Even if you are not in business for yourself, you can have a card created with your contact info.  A calling card of sorts. This allows anyone you met  the opportunity to continue chatting with you interactively, rather than searching for their phone to capture your information.  I take things a step further and always include a recent photo of myself on my card.  I stink at names, so I love the idea of remember someone by their face.

Be Comfy

I know, those 3″ heels make you feel powerful, sleek and sexy. But are you really focused on the conversation or do your feet hurt so badly that all you can think about is sitting down and taking them off.

If the weather is cold, find a place to check your coat or ditch it as soon as you arrive.  It will help hold your place at a table if there is a luncheon or speach that will take place after the networking.

Being comfortable and free to roam the room without distraction is the key here.

networking-outfit

 

 

Dressing for success sometimes means you slip on your favorite pair of jeans, a tank and sport jacket. On your way out the door you slip on your ballet flats, and you still look professional and polished, but you are ready to network!

Set A Realistic Goal for the Event

When you walk into a networking event that has 60-80 ladies, and your goal is to get as many contacts as you possibly can, something gets lost.  You may be successful in gathering up 20-30 business cards, but what do you know about the people who gave them to you?  How will you strike up a meaningful conversation the next time you interact?  Setting a realistic networking goal will take the pressure and added work to follow up, off your shoulders.

Goals may look like;

  1. Meet 5 new people and learn something meaningful about them
  2. Start 3 conversations
  3. Learn something new

Perfect Your Pitch

One of the most bothersome things I encounter at networking mixers, is that time when we go around the table introducing ourselves. More often than not, women get nervous and stumble over their pitch in this situation. If you practice a bit before the event, you will have a memory to recall and use during this portion of the meeting.    The last thing you want is for your new found connections to think less of you because you were unsure about your pitch. Worse yet, they leave wondering what the hell it is that you do!

Follow this basic structure for each networking event.

“Hi! My name is {Insert Name}. Your JOB TITLE and NAME OF COMPANY. What that means in Layman’s Terms and WHY you love it.

I always try to be personal, creative and smile!   Sometimes I make a little pithy joke, and that tends to break the ice… for me at least.

Have a few Conversation Starters

It is a good idea to scan the room just after your arrival, and formulate some ideas for conversation.  ”Have you been here before? How’s the Shrimp? This venue is gorgeous!”

Asking open ended questions is a great way to get a conversation started.  ”How did you get started?  is a much better question than “How long have you worked there?”

Try to find common interest in your conversation. Explore work, outside of work, family, kids… anything that will allow you to connect and share an interest. If you are feeling like the conversation is going nowhere fast…

Use a Non-Awkward Conversation Closer

It was wonderful to chat with you, but I have a few more people I would love to connect with!  Everyone hates to be brushed off like a bug. If you are paying attention, you will feel the natural end to your conversation approaching, and can bow out with grace and poise.

Business Card Bytes

When you make a connection with someone new, and you feel there is a great reason to follow up. Grab that pen and jot down a few notes on their card.  Make certain the notes you include will spark something in your memory about the conversation. This will help you create a conversation  when you are following up.

Follow – Up {Not just once}

Reaching out to the contacts that you connected with should be done about 48 hours after the event is over. People are busy and forget things.  Email works well, especially if you recall and mention something meaningful from your conversation. (This is where those notes you wrote on their business cards come in)  If their card has a physical address, send them a hand written note. You will be surprised how much joy this brings to people.

Don’t forget to share social profiles, and ask for their favorite networking events.

Schedule a time in the near future to keep in touch with them.

Life is busy, and adding networking can seem overwhelming. When done successfully, it is the single most important marketing tool you can have in your business development toolbox. Being stuck in isolation is lonely, leads to business frustration and slows growth.

What do you find to be the most successful networking advice?

2 Responses to Networking Tips for the New Year

  1. I like this:
    Meet 5 new people and learn something meaningful about them
    Start 3 conversations
    Learn something new

    Realistic goals are always helpful for me to stay on target. I tend to get overly busy and overwhelmed. More often than not I’ve been used to getting everything done, but as I venture into a more entrepreneurial world, it’s harder. I think this year will be my year for goal list making and staying to it

  2. Jenny Hamrick says:

    I love your advice about “perfecting your pitch.” I never really thought about introducing myself as a pitch before, but that is what we’re doing in essence. I always stumble on this part, but I think if I went in with a solid pitch then I could use that until I got more comfortable with it and add those funny quips!

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