How to Not Suck at Networking

I often hear people say “I suck at networking” and while I know you think that, I’m here to give you some simple advice to dispel that belief and help you not dread your next networking event.  Spoiler alert – it’s all about building relationships, not contacts. 

Be. You. 

When you approach someone by being simply who you are, you remove the pressure to be something you’re not.  Something the event might suggest (think Fortunes Most Powerful Women conference ... or Digital Markers Meetup ... or LAUNCH Festival --- the title alone sets the bar). When you look at name badges you probably automatically compare yourself and wonder what the think while looking at your name badge (Vice President or Founder, or Award Winning Author). It’s true that we won’t find commonality with everyone we meet, and people will come to events with an agenda (with ego not too far behind), but if you show your true self then I think you can walk away feeling proud, regardless if you and the person “clicked”. 

Be. Curious. 

The easiest way to get to know someone (and that all networking is), is to be curious about who they are. Ask them questions and invite them to share more about themselves. And when they answer, ask them a follow on question. Even if it’s a topic that you’re not typically interested in, look at it as a learning opportunity. Not to mention that you’re being considerate to the person you’re speaking to (which always goes a long way). Consider asking different questions instead of the tried and boring “where do you work, what do you do”. Ask things like “where would you like to take your business in the next year?” “Is there one person at this event that you’re looking forward to meeting, and why?” “What has been the key take-away from today’s event?” Or “What are your top 5 Apps that you enjoy these days?” You’ll be more memorable because of the unique, authentic questions. 

Be. A. Good. Listener

Even more important is to actively listen when the other person is speaking. Try to quiet the voice that is thinking about what you can say next, or worse yet, judging the person in any way. Truly pay attention to what they are saying and how are they saying it – is it with excitement and passion? Great, pick up on that and explore it further. If at the end of the conversation the other person hasn’t asked you any questions then shame on them. They will have missed getting to know the remarkable person that you are. Plus all is not lost – if it’s a connection that is meant to be, you guys will cross paths again. 

Be. Agendaless. 

Okay that’s not a word but you know what I mean. When you walk into a room, leave your agenda at the door and trust that whatever you need from the event or the people at it, will come to you. 

Be. Prompt. 

I’m always impressed, as are others with me, when the person follows up quickly (same evening or next day is my definition of “quick”. Make a LinkedIn connection using a short but custom message to remind them how you met. Or better yet, comment on something you discussed so they know you were paying attention. If you promised them something (an intro, the name of an event, etc), then send that no later than the next day. If relevant, follow them on their social media channels and engage with a re-tweet or like. Showing up for them that evening and the next day / week will make you more memorable, which is especially important if you want to forge an on-going connection with this person. 

Be. Done. 

If you’re exhausted and just done, then make your exit. You won’t be your beautiful, awesome, authentic self if you’re tired and hanging around just to “make one more connection”. And no one wants to feel like you’re not interested in engaging with them or their story. Again, if they are meant to be in your life, trust that there will be another way. 

I’ll leave you with this quote I learned from a Good People. It a dinner and conversation, and fits perfectly into the them of building relationships. BTW – check out Good People .. it’s truly a relationship building event where you’ll meet wonderful people who could probably do wonders for you.

"Take time to build relationships and you will be rewarded with experiences you could never pay for."  Jon-Paul Bowles