As a busy professional, you don’t have time to waste on boring, unfruitful networking events. You want to make every connection and every conversation as beneficial as possible so that opportunities to network yield great results. Here are five ways to step up your networking game.
How you measure the success of a networking event depends on what you hope to achieve. Do you want to connect with a particular group or have meaningful conversations with a specific number of people? Are you in the market for job leads or new clients? Having a goal keeps you focused and helps you avoid spending too much time on conversations unrelated to your desired outcome.
Authenticity gets tossed around as a buzzword, but it’s vitally important in business and networking. Don’t go to an event as a mascot for your company or some larger-than-life representation of your personal brand. Just be the way you really are as a person and a professional. You should stay positive and focused, keeping the conversation on the topic at hand, but don’t be afraid to talk about your personal life or share interesting stories when it’s relevant.
Restricting your conversations only to people in your niche or those you suspect would make good clients can actually be more of a waste of time than allowing connections to happen organically. You can never predict where a beneficial friendship may start or who may be a great source for referrals. Allow yourself to branch out and talk to people in a diverse range of companies and positions. Listen carefully during your discussions to discover how you can make connections and offer mutual help or support.
Showing genuine interest in other people can reveal lucrative opportunities. Head to every networking event with a mental list of questions to help you get the most out of every conversation. Find out about other people’s jobs, personal interests and goals, and see where your own priorities align. When you take time to actually pay attention, it lays the foundation for worthwhile long-term partnerships.
Connection implies ongoing conversation, which starts with a timely follow-up. Get in touch with the people you meet within a week of the networking event to remind them of your conversation, what you do and how you may be able to help each other. Sending emails, following social media accounts and making phone calls are all beneficial. You might even want to send a letter to the most promising prospects or meet them in person to continue the discussion you began at the event.
Putting these tips into practice means you can come away from your next networking opportunity with better results than you’ve had in the past. When you know how to manage time and maximize conversations, you can stop dreading “boring” networking events and start making real, beneficial contacts.
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