Fact: “No one who has made it far made it alone.”
Clique: “If you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go with others.”
These sayings couldn’t be further from the truth, especially in our world, which is basically a global village, because of the internet and how it connects people across seas that have no business connecting with each other, otherwise.
The internet has bridged the gap and many virtual meetings have become the avenue for several actual meetings that have gone a long way to help many in their lives and businesses. Many professionals are going the extra mile of connecting with people they met on social media or LinkedIn through networking and that has basically become the norm in business.
Everyone who really wants to grow in their field is doing it, and honestly, you should too.
Do not despise the gathering of people with like minds, people in the same profession as you are, those already in a line of business you desire to do, or those already beyond you in life’s pursuit with visible pieces of evidence.
Every waking day is an opportunity to increase your network. Add to your contact from time to time; let some people out of your life to accommodate credible people. There is a need for peers, those you can grow with who can inform you of new opportunities.
Simply put, you need to become a networking master by mastering the art of networking. And we are going to teach you how.
In this guide, we are going to be discussing networking in two parts. The first part will teach you what you need to become a networking master while the second part will tell you what you need to do after you have mastered the art of networking.
Here is what you will be learning:
Becoming A Networking Master
Now That You Are A Networking Master
Networking is the exchange of ideas, information, contacts that happens among common people, with a common profession, a common goal or among people with a similar interest in something or a business. It is the building or establishment of useful relationships with others who tend to become potential clients or customers. Advertising your product, creating awareness of what you do and the services you offer is the major reason for networking.
This networking usually happens in an informal setting. It could be in a social gathering and it doesn’t have to be about the services you render at the first meeting. It is you captivating them and making them eager to know and see what you can offer.
Networking goes beyond physical meetings to virtual meetings on social media. So there is the online and offline networking. In today’s world, online networking has taken more precedence because it is easy to find groups of people with similar interests, professionals and those in the same field as you.
For example, professional platforms like LinkedIn provides a platform for professionals to be engaged by joining groups, creating a blog post, there is a space to place your ad or resume for others to view and see if they need your services. Many have been hired through that platform. They get noticed, have an interview and if they are qualified for the job, they get hired.
In a nutshell, networking is used by different professionals, whether online or offline to widen their scope and horizon. They get to know what is new in their industry so they are not obsolete and get irrelevant with time.
Also, Networking helps business owners to become friends with potential customers. When you get a contact, even if you don’t go straight to talking about your product, soonest when it gets to that point, the person or company may patronize you.
The importance and usefulness of networking cannot be overemphasized as we have seen so far. Here are some highlights of it all.
1. Fresh Contacts And New Referrals
The number one reason for networking is for the sake of getting fresh contacts, not just any contact but those who can be your customers or clients in the long run.
Beyond this also is that, you may not have access to the person or organization you desire but when you meet someone that knows that person or has access that you lack, when a conversation starts, you might be given a referral to that company based on good faith and it will be your turn to do a good job.
These contacts can become partners and sponsors or you get new ideas for the expansion of your business.
2. You Get Visible
The worst thing that can happen to any venture is to be hidden and not be known. No matter how great your product is, when you are not known, you may be forced to close down totally but with networking.
The more you get to meet people, when they try you and you deliver, you get new contacts again based on the testimonies from other customers and that is how it grows.
When you are on one of these professional social groups outlets like LinkedIn, or any other business group you are on. With constant participation on such groups, not being a silent reader, you get noticed by group members and the day you say what you do, based on your popularity and effectiveness, you begin to get offers.
For those that have the opportunity to see their contacts, it can be by attending business luncheons or over breakfast. Just be available when you are needed, and avail yourself without being a pest.
3. It Keeps You Current
You are always fresh on news regarding your niche if you are part of the group or you have an active meeting. When you meet people, you learn new things updating your mind with fresh information in regards to your work.
You know what to do and what to avoid on your way to the top. You may get information on grants and loans for people in your line of business. You remain on top of your game when you network with others.
Aside from getting new contacts, your business may be in need of new staff, if you need referrals on the best hands to consult to take your business forward, you can get them especially through social media where you get to see a lot of people displaying their portfolios and resumes for hiring.
Sometimes, you can have your new clients recommend some professionals to you. When you get them, you can solve your problems and forge ahead. You may need a legal representative for your company; you can get angel investors also through networking on social media.
5. Sharing Of Ideas And Experiences
Before you launch a new line of business or start-up something new, you may want to seek professional advice. Ask questions from those who have gone ahead of you. When they share their experiences in the business, their mistakes, you quickly know what to avoid. When you get several opinions, you streamline to what will work for your own company.
This will save you a lot of time and money to be invested because you will make lesser mistakes and reap much from the business.
Although networking is extremely important to your career, it can be hard to navigate and it can be equally daunting the first time around and even scary.
Master how to network easier with these 21 steps:
1. Redefine Your Definition Of Networking
Instead of thinking of networking as an event that comes with a lot of pressure, you could redefine its meaning and its processes, and instead think of it as an “open exchange” where you can freely exchange ideas, information, and contacts with others.
2. Choose Events That Are Relatable To You
Don’t just go to an event for mere networking sake, go to events that you interest you and ones that have some relevance to your industry or put up by an association you are alumni of. If you are familiar with the workings of that organization, then it will be easier for you to socialize.
3. Host Your Own Events
You could host your own networking event, and email 10 of your closest friends to bring along someone they know. As a way to keep the event professional, you could have discussions about everyone else’s career goals, job satisfaction and industry trends.
4. Volunteer At An Event
You could also volunteer at an event at a position that gives you an opportunity to communicate directly with attendees. It could as a registrar or giving people name tags. This could give you an opportunity to talk to others and make it easier for you to socialize.
5. Think Outside The Networking Box
There is no one place you could network with people and you mustn’t always go to a conference hall before you can meet like-minded individuals.
Attending a hackathon, dinner parties, helping out with a project, or a simple social gathering will help you know people in a different way that doesn’t involve asking them questions.
6. Go-To Dinner
If your prefered networking style is trying out new restaurants, you could join a social dining site like BlendAbout, where you can go out to dine at the finest cuisines with people who also share your interests in food.
Meeting up with people like this would make it easier for you to strike up conversations.
7. Do Some Research
You could also check out the event on Twitter, before attending it. See who is tweeting about it, what they are saying about the event and also get a feel of the event and that way you can know what to expect and how to start up discussions with the people there.
8. Set Goals
Goals are a way for you to define what you hope to achieve by attending the program. Is it to make new friends, expand your professional contacts, or whatever it is. When you have attained these goals, you can reward yourself.
9. Use Postive Reinforcement
A good way to get yourself to make the most out of networking is to promise to reward yourself if you hit all of your goals for the event. For instance, if you go home with three business cards or get up to a certain number of contacts, you will meet your friends for a drink, others take out or see a movie.
Doing this will help you be more enthusiastic about it because there is a prize for you at the end.
10. Bring A Friend
If you are nervous about attending the event alone, you can bring along a friend who is a great conversationalist, to help you discuss with others smoothly. Your friend will start off the conversation and once you are comfortable enough, you can chip in.
Keep the conversation going after your friend leaves and you can exchange contacts with the person afterwards.
11. Dress Well
Dress according to the event you are attending and more importantly, wear something that makes you feel confident.
It could be a favourite blazer, shoes, statement necklace or a power-meeting outfit. Whatever you wear, make sure it leaves you feeling confident.
12. Go In With Great Conversation Starters
It would be a lot easier for you to talk to someone you don’t know if you have good ice breakers. If it is related to food, you can start off by saying something like “have you tried one of these? I can’t stop eating them?”
Or, you could also start with a controversial news topic that everyone else is talking about. It can also be “what a beautiful venue, have you been here before?”
13. Grab A Drink
Another good way would be to walk up to the bar and make small talk with the people there while waiting for the bartender to make you a drink.
14. Think Of It As Being At Dinner With Close Friends
Before you go, you can ask your friends and family what they enjoy most about your conversations and how they feel when you talk to them.
This way, when you go to the party you won’t be worried about how your talks will sound to the people at the event “I am witty enough?” “Was that offensive?” and instead, you can just talk to them as if you are at a dinner party with close friends.
15. Set Your Vibe Right
The kind of vibe you give off will determine if people will come over to talk to you or not. It can either scare someone who really wants to come over and talk to you off or it can put them at ease with you.
Set your vibe to “curious”, “warm and welcoming” as opposed to “how soon can I leave?” or “I really wish everyone will notice me”. Setting the vibe right is like turning on an inner smile, and it will make you seem like more of an ally and friend than a potential threat.
16. Approach Pairs Not Singles
It is better for you to approach a pair of people talking than a single person standing alone. Why? If you see two people talking, chances are they arrived together and know that they should be mingling. Or they are secretly worried that they may end up talking only to each other all night.
Walking up to them means that you have freed them from the conversation and your chances of socializing have increased because you are now talking to two people instead of one.
17. Talk About Their Life, Not Just Work
You can also talk to them about other things going on in their life, except for work. Having conversations like this are more meaningful, lighter, and you could also find something that you both have in common, which can keep the conversation going.
18. Ask Interesting Questions
You can ask them, “what’s keeping you busy these days?” now they can either pick work, volunteer or family as what they are most interested in.
19. Open Up
True, not everyone likes to get personal about their life or wants a complete stranger sharing intimate details about their lives to them, but sharing personal information about yourself, can’t hurt and it can get the other person to open up about themselves.
Mind you, don’t share detail with them that could make them uncomfortable or weirded out. Just something interesting they can relate to is fine.
20. Know When To Cut Your Losses
Most of the time, you only have yourself to blame for a bad networking experience. But other times, the networking event was just bad and there was nothing you or anyone else could have done to save it.
So, instead of beating yourself up for not talking enough, talking too much or just being awkward, what you should do is go to events that are well organized or things that you enjoy.
21. Eliminate The Competition
If you can’t navigate a room full of people, where you have to exchange pleasantries with everyone and having your attention dragged all over the room, you can set up a one on one meeting with people who you really enjoyed talking to over coffee or drinks.
You can also have a friend who is good at networking, introduce you to people they know you’ll enjoy talking to.
Now that you know all the ways you can navigate networking, let’s get you started on how to become a networking master.
1. Learn The Basics Of Networking
Networking isn’t really the easiest skill to master and if you want to be really good at, you need to spend some time learning it.
What you can do is to take a networking online class, the course will teach you email-based networking, how to hold excellent elevator conversations, start a conversation with anyone, and keep in touch with people you meet.
2. Attend Networking Events
After you have successfully mastered all aspects of basic networking, the next thing to do would be to put what you have learned to use. A good way to do this would be to attend any networking event that interests you.
3. Organize Your Network
Forging relationships with new people is not the only important part of networking, keeping track of all the members of your network is another important part.
You can create a spreadsheet of all your contacts, and add update it every time you meet someone new. Though it may seem unimportant now, that list can come in handy in the future.
4. Don’t Pretend, Be Yourself
Don’t be tempted to make up stories about yourself, who you are and what you represent. It is true that many people in the name of packaging have tried to pretend to be at the level they have not yet attained. They put themselves under pressure thinking the person wouldn’t find out.
Networking is about meeting and relating with people, even if you met them on social media, these are real-life people who desire to have a conversation with another human being not just a brand or an advertiser. If they get to find out the truth, your aim of contacting them would be defeated. Be yourself, be honest and have a real conversation.
5. Be Honest In Your Dealings
When you receive an invitation to a luncheon or business dinner filled with potential clients, investors and advisers. Do not in a bid to be noticed begin to go out of your way to impress everyone. When you tell lies you assume the person might want to hear just to get their contacts, sooner or later, the truth comes out. It is great to be smart and rational but not dishonest.
Learn to keep things simple and memorable. Remember you will be representing your brand or company, don’t let anyone perceive you to be a liar. That might ruin business for the future.
6. Build Lasting Relationships
In your first meetings, don’t be in a hurry to present yourself as a salesperson; don’t try to sell anything to them in that first meeting. Listen to them talk; take note of key points from the conversation that you can use as feedback through email or text. Let them get the feeling that you care and that you were paying attention to them.
Remember the aim is to get them to like you. It’s not just by getting a phone number, if you don’t catch their heart, they may not answer the phone or respond to your emails.There is a way to go about networking to bring about tangible results. Networking should not just be about using people as objects to meet your needs; you need to create a lasting relationship for future purposes.
7. Provide Value For Free
Sometimes, how you get noticed is to volunteer to render value for free. Some people may not patronize you but when you give them the first sample, they will come for more and even recommend more customers to you. It may cost you a bit but consider the ultimate goal.
The truth is that everyone wants something that will benefit them and their companies. So when you provide value for free and your product is tested and trusted, you will get a raise in the customer base.
8. Ask Target Questions
When you have a rare opportunity after several trials and follow-ups through emails or text messages or any social media to have a conversation, do not start bushing about the bush. You know what you need, ask direct questions that will hit the nail on the head.
Be specific in your questions and make sure you are taking note of those answers and how to work them out. Taking notes shows your seriousness and the fact that you want to be detailed. That alone will speak volumes, especially in physical meetings.
9. Enjoy Yourself
Don’t forget to smile and be cheerful especially when it’s an actual meeting, we talked about building relationships. Though you are all about getting business done but loosen the atmosphere so the conversation can flow.
Don’t be too rigid about the whole thing. Feel free, talk and act nicely. This will help reduce the tension in the air and you will equally enjoy doing business.
10. Be After Quality Not Quantity
In a bid to be a networker, people make the mistake of spreading themselves too thin. Focus more on getting some reasonable and helpful contacts that will make a significant difference in your business, not having like ten contacts that can add absolutely nothing to you or your business.
As much as you desire to be helped, be willing to help also. That is what the relationship is about. It is a win-win thing.
Whether you are an entrepreneur or a business professional, LinkedIn is the perfect social media platform for you to grow your business.
It has everything you need to help you put your business and expertise on the map, and it is designed to help you connect with people you already know and people you wish to connect with.
LinkedIn is the perfect place to meet professionals like yourself, who share your interests and ideas. But to be able to use it to network better, there are a few things you’ll have to do, here are some of them:
1. Choose Your Connections Strategically
To be able to network successfully with LinkedIn you would have to choose your connections strategically.
Instead of adding anyone and everyone you see pop up on your connection suggestions, limiting the number of people you add to your network will ensure that you see posts in your feed from people who are of interest or relevance to you.
2. Personalize Your Connection Requests
When scrolling through a suggestion of people you know, don’t simply click on the connect button. Instead, go directly to the person’s profile and click the connect button from there.
Doing this will bring out a box where you can add a personal note to the person, along with your “connect” request. You could say “hello, it was nice meeting you at that event last week. Let’s keep in touch”.
If you are interested in connecting with someone who works in your industry, but you don’t know them, you can add a message as to why you are messaging them and why you are interested in working with them.
You can say “ I have seen your works and posts. I really appreciate your perspectives and I would love to connect”.
3. Follow Up
LinkedIn connections shouldn’t have to happen only online and it’s not just people that were suggested to you that you should connect to. If you’ve met someone at a conference or a volunteer project, you could follow up by looking for them on LinkedIn and sending them a request.
4. Set Monthly Growth Goals
Set monthly attainable and realistic goals about how much your LinkedIn connection has grown. For instance, growing your connection from 100 to 500+ seems like an unattainable goal, but not if you split that number over weeks and months. Do, 175 connections within two weeks and repeat until you reach the number you want.
However, bear in mind that growing your LinkedIn connection won’t be as easy as you think, because most people won’t accept your request due to reasons such as:
5. Identify People To Connect With
To be able to network better on LinkedIn, you have to be particular about the group of people you send connection invites. Don’t just send out invitations for the sake of growing your network, send them out with the intent to connect with people that you can build lasting business relationships with people who share insights you can relate to.
If you join a membership or was at an event and met someone you would like to speak with further, you can connect with them on LinkedIn and even add members of the group. You can also find people who were alumni at your old school.
To find specific people, use the search bar at the top of the page. You can search for users based on names, jobs, content, companies, schools, or groups. You can also put in the name of your chamber of commerce or your city.
6. Post Often
When a connection likes, comments, and shares your post or status update on their LinkedIn feed, their connections are bound to see your original post on their feed, and they could also try to connect with your post is relevant to them. Post regularly and you can gain connection invites from people who share the same interests and opinions as you.
In addition, posting regularly creates more room for engagement and syndicates your content across home feeds everywhere.
You don’t have to be worried about annoying people on your network with your daily posts, because, with the way LinkedIn’s algorithm is set up, your connections aren’t likely to see everything you post unless you publish natively with LinkedIn’s article tool, which does notify your network.
7. Use Images
Make sure to use images whenever you post on LinkedIn. Using images on social posts can increase engagement with existing people in your network and expose you to potential connections.
Research shows that views for a post that has visuals grow by 11 times. Mix up your posts, don’t always share Links, but include pictures as well.
8. Engage With Existing Connections
Engaging with existing connections puts you in front of their network, and all you needed to do was type a simple “great thoughts”, “congratulations”, “thanks for sharing” and even a simple like.
Doing these things can expand your reach and it is a thoughtful thing to do when someone’s thoughts resonate with you. Commenting on posts with your personal insights or questions will increase engagement and exposure.
9. Use Channels
Maximize the use of your social media(Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) bio by dropping your LinkedIn URL to encourage your friends and followers to connect with you on LinkedIn, especially if you have a huge following on those platforms.
Take advantage of your social media pages to promote your LinkedIn page and share your URL on posts, pictures, videos, and add your profile page on emails too.
10. Utilize Keywords
Optimizing keywords on your LinkedIn Page is as important as it is when you do the same for your website. Make use of keywords on your profile, so that it would be easier for people to connect with you on LinkedIn, especially if they require your expertise.
Use common variations of your job title and duties on your profile to ensure that you are not invisible to potential clients.
If your job title is “Content Manager”, you probably have many roles like- copywriter, website editor, creative writer, communications specialist, blogger and more. Keep in mind that someone is more likely to search for connections who perform specific job functions rather than search by formal titles.
Although, LinkedIn is open to all types of professionals looking to network with people who share the same ideology as themselves, there are still some rules you need to abide by while using it to build your network so that you don’t embarrass yourself or offend others.
Here are some of those rules:
1. Do treat your profile as a professional brochure, use an appropriate image for your profile photo and put up to date and complete information.
2. Don’t blank connect. Before you send connection requests, learn more about the person. Be ready to explain why they should connect with you.
3. Do choose your groups carefully. Pick ones that are most relevant to your interests. You can do away with ones that don’t meet this criterion.
4. Don’t sell yourself or anything at all to connections you are not familiar with. Just because you connected with someone, doesn’t mean that they can vouch for you.
5. Do be active in a group. Give thoughtful responses to discussions.
6. Do get testimonials and feedbacks that speak well about your skills.
7. Don’t be inactive. If you can only post once a week, try to keep it up.
8. Do drop links of meaningful videos that show what you have to offer.
9. Don’t use old or broken links or links that lead to personal sites that distract people from your image or brand.
10. Don’t use the project section of your profile for references and remember to include publications and projects URLs.
11. Don’t copy and paste links for profiles from your browser. Those links are long and cumbersome. Every profile has a public link under the picture that looks like this - www.linkedin.com/in/myjobmag.
12. Do show potential connections that you are thoughtful and worth connecting with by crafting a personal message that starts a relationship. Don’t just use the standard “join my LinkedIn network”.
13. Don't spam abruptly. Instead, use the "Update" feature to get your message out.
14. Do reach out and make meaningful connections. Take the time to find common ground based on your profiles and consider how your relationship can benefit both you and them.
15. Don't use lengthy combinations and terms that no one understands. Instead, use simple language and recognizable business terms that mean something to your connection.
16. Do give a detailed description of what you do in the top of your profile. Simply giving your company description under your title makes people think you have no idea what your position entails or that you just don't care.
17. Don't hog the conversations in groups, make your point, and patiently wait for others to make theirs as well. You should always consider others.
18. Do write meaningful recommendations for people. Stop thinking you are participating in a meaningful way by endorsing others.
19. Don't treat LinkedIn as a chore that you have to just to do because you signed up for it. This is the best networking tool available today, and it's absolutely free. Dedicate your time and effort to make the most out of your connections, and establish worthwhile, long-term relationships.
20. Don’t be self-indulgent. If you start a discussion or post a link, make sure it adds value to others, not just yourself. Self-promotion isn’t an impressionable skill.
You can meet people in social gatherings, church, school alumni, job fairs, professional associations meetings and programs, local business meeting mixers, workshops, a college student and alumni event, and trade fair shows especially when you need some business contacts of professionals. Networking simply needs a common ground and the thread continues.
But, networking as you probably have already gathered at the first part, isn’t just about signing up, accepting invitations or showing up at a venue and grabbing free snacks and drinks, while handing out business cards. It’s about meeting people, sharing who you are and what you do, and gaining valuable contacts and information that can come in handy in the future.
And just like every other networking medium, whether offline or online, there are some guidelines you’ll need to follow, and preparations you need to make before you go, so that your networking event easy and smooth sailing.
Here are 11 ways to network at an event, like a pro:
Before You Go:
1. Perfect Your Elevator Pitch
The most important thing to do before attending a networking event is to perfect your elevator pitch, a brief summary of your professional side and prepare to share it with everybody you meet at the event.
If what you are attending is a career-focused event or program then you can bring along your business card and a copy of your resume.
Review the meeting agenda and workshops, that you’d like to go to. If it is a career fair, review a list of companies that would be present which you will like to talk to. You will be more comfortable attending the event if you have an action plan in place.
2. Have A Goal
Before you dress up to go for an event, ask yourself two important questions which are why you are going and what you hope to accomplish at the program.
Are you going because you want to make 100 new connections? Exchange business cards or reconnect with old friends? Whatever your goal is, have it in mind, so that you can stay focused on accomplishing it, and you don’t just wander aimlessly into an event and be aloof as to what you are supposed to do there.
3. Dress To Impress
Pick out something smart and professional to wear for a networking event. If you wear something that makes you look dishevelled and disorganised, you are guaranteed not to make a good first impression on people.
Let whatever you choose to wear, be an outfit you are comfortable with, yet at the same time, it exudes confidence.
4. Bring Business Cards
Bring as much business cards, as should suffice. That way when you meet someone that requests one, you won’t give them an excuse that you just gave away your last one or you forgot it.
Keep the cards in a card case, so that they won’t get dirty or rumpled before you can actually hand them out.
When At The Event:
5. Assist With Something
When you get to the event, you can offer to help with registration if they need volunteers, or you can sign up in advance to be a greeter. Being a greeter or mingling at the registration desk is a great way to meet people.
6. Make An Effective Introduction
Introduce yourself by making eye contact, smiling, stating your first and last name, and giving them a firm but brief handshake- shake with your right hand and only use your left if you have an injury or illness on the right. If you are carrying something on your right hand, transfer it to your left.
Don’t shake with sweaty palms- wash your hands and dry it or use sanitizers, the sanitizers will dry your hands once it evaporates. If you don’t have time to go to the restroom, clean your hands at the side of your trousers or skirt.
Listen to the other person’s name (you will miss it if you are nervous), then use it twice while speaking, this will not only help you remember, but it will show them that you are genuinely interested in the conversation and in them. You can also wear a name tag so that it will be easier for people to remember your name.
This is how you introduce yourself:
This is how to respond when someone introduces themselves to you:
7. Listen First, Then Speak
When you are the first to speak in a conversation, there are chances that the person you are talking to is only half listening to what you are saying. This is because they are preoccupied with thinking about what they are going to say.
But by asking the other person a question first, they will be more relaxed and focused to listen to you when it is your turn to speak.
8. Show Sincere Interest In Learning About Them
While having a discussion, have some good questions in mind, which you can ask them to keep the conversation going.
Asking the person questions about their background and work shows that you are not only interested in your own job opportunities, but in theirs as well. Here are some questions you can ask:
9. Hit The Nail On The Head
When it is your turn to share what you do, state it in just 2-3 sentences. You can go into more details later. If you stretch out the answer, it would be easy for the person to lose interest midway.
Avoid using industry jargon and terms. The key to effectively network with someone is to build rapport through communication, so if they can't understand what you are saying, a connection won’t happen.
10. Take Notes
After mingling with people, find a quiet corner of the room to take notes about important details of the conversation, like who the person is, what they do, where they work, what you talked about, and any other follow up you’d like to do.
Since you want to connect with them in the future, writing those things down will help make following up with them so much easier.
After The Event:
11. Follow Up
A few days after the event, reach out by sending followup emails to people whom you met at the event that you’d like to continue networking with.
Don’t send the same email to all of them, instead personalize each email by letting the person know that you enjoyed meeting them, and mentioning something you two talked about. Note that sending a generic LinkedIn invite is one of the quickest ways to stop a connection.
Note: You can’t always fault yourself whenever a networking event you attended doesn’t go as planned. Keep reading to find out the 5 signs you have stumbled into a bad networking event.
The possibility of you either actively participating, or flopping at a networking event isn’t completely up to you. And sometimes, even with all your preparation for before, during, and after a networking event, you could still end up doing very badly, and not make any valuable connections.
When this happens, just know that you, my friend, have stumbled into a bad networking event, so there’s really no need for you to waste your time.
1. You Arrived Early Even When You Are Late
You can’t really network if there is no one for you to network with. You can tell if an event is going to be a colossal waste of time when you arrive and find out that the people who organized it, didn’t promote it well, so now, you and the organizers are the only people present at the venue.
Do yourself a favour and just go home.
2. You Already Know Everyone At The Event
Unless it's buddies' night out or team bonding exercise, you really shouldn’t be at an event where you already know everyone there. Even if you see your friends at the event, let it be in the midst of hundreds of people you haven’t met before.
Attending a networking event with the aim of meeting new people, only for it to be actually full of people you already know, kind of defeats the whole purpose.
3. No One Is Talking
Some say that when you attend a networking event that no one is talking in, it’s the best opportunity for you to get the conversation started. This might be true, but if you are at an event where no one is talking to anyone, then it could just be bad.
4. Everyone Is Talking To Their Friends
There is nothing worse than being at a networking event where everyone is talking to their friends and you are the only one who knows you there.
If you are at a place like this, then don’t bother handing out your business card, because they’ll probably trash it.
5. You Have To Get Drunk To Tolerate Being There
Being drunk for an event is a bad idea. But if you are drinking to escape an event, then it is a bad one.
There are still some people who when they hear the word networking, they get nervous and try to avoid it all costs. That’s understandable, considering the fact that you don’t know how you are supposed to strike a conversation with people you don’t know, about something that doesn’t even interest you.
If this is you, you are probably tired of being stuck in a hall surrounded by people who all seem to be enjoying the event, except for you.
It is time for you to start attending events about things that you actually enjoy, with like-minded professionals who are interested in the same things as you are. Using a social event platform like Meetup to network at events is your best bet to find events that are tailored to suit your interests.
Here is how to use Meetup for networking:
1. Understand How It Works
Meetup is an international organization, and you can find groups from every corner of the world on it. It is now left for you to narrow down your search by searching for groups you are interested in which are functioning in your exact location.
If you can’t find a group that suits you, you also have the option to create your own.
2. Finding The Right Meetup Group
If you do find a group that matches your criteria, you should check it out to see if you would like to get involved with it. Doing so will allow you to learn about the structure of the group so that you will know how relevant it will be to you and your business.
In order to choose the groups you are interested in joining or narrow your choices, go to Meetup.com and type in your area of interests. You will be shown a list of related groups, and you can now choose which ones you are interested in joining.
3. Attend A Meetup
Join a group that aligns with your career interests, and network at its next event. It is vital that you go to a meeting that has everything you’ll need to connect to others, but also give them a way to connect with you after the event.
People like to informally exchange their business cards at a Meetup, so bring along yours, so that you can exchange it with that of a potential connection as well.
If you get shy, just remember that everyone in the event is in the same boat as you, and when you get over it, try to mingle by shaking hands and asking people what they do, and you will be fine.
4. Boost Your Professional Reputation
When you first attend a Meetup, there are chances that the other people at the event don’t know who you are, so you’ll need to establish a connection with them.
This means that you need to boost your professional reputation by establishing trust between both of you, build credibility, and eventually establish yourself as a subject matter in your area of expertise.
One important thing you should know is that establishing your professional reputation will not happen overnight. It will take time, patience, and effort for it to work.
5. Present At A Meetup Event
If you are confident that you are a subject matter expert on a given topic, show it off at a Meetup by giving a presentation. This puts you out there and helps you network better with people, because the attendees will want to introduce themselves and ask questions afterwards, so stick around after your seminar.
6. Sponsor A Meetup
Another great way to get your name out there would be to sponsor a meet up. More so, getting your company to sponsor one is a double win for you- local professionals who attended will get exposure to what your company is about, and you create networking opportunities at the location or company you chose to sponsor the event.
7. Create Your Own Meetup
If you don’t find a group that aligns with your interests, then go ahead and create it yourself. Scheduling your first meetup right after creating a group, will help bring in new members.
Even if your group isn’t skill-oriented, you can still attract members who you can network within your group. Just be proactive and connect with others in your community who share your interests. Have something positive and fulfilling to offer, that can add value to the lives of members.
While creating your group, decide how you want to structure it, whether you want to host the event at a library or a place where refreshment will be provided. You can also choose to run a pure networking meeting, feature a presenter, and hold open networking at the end of the event.
Another thing to consider is when you want to have your meetups so that it doesn’t clash with the members’ schedules. You can host it once a month on a particular day of the week so that people can factor it into their schedules and not be confused as to the timings.
Note: Networking is one of the most powerful tools in your box and by being prepared for it with goals, a great outfit, and excellent conversation starter packs, you can make the most out of it. Just be professional, proactive, and try to relax and have fun at events.
You may have spent all that time attending events, reaching out on LinkedIn, and gathering contacts to use and build your network. But all your efforts are in vain if you don’t keep in touch with your contacts.
If you are the type to just write down numbers and names, send invites, and only reach out to members of your network when you need help, then your network is as good as disconnected and to be honest, you don’t really have one.
It is important to keep in touch constantly with your network, because if you don’t they will cut you off since they feel that they don’t have much of a relationship with you, and they may not even remember who you are when you do reach out.
Don’t let the networking trail go cold, here are ways to prevent your network from getting disconnected:
1. Keep Track Of Your Contacts
2. Keep In Touch
After organizing your spreadsheet of contacts, it is now time for you to go from someone they met at a contact, to someone they look forward to hearing from.
Do note that you should keep in touch with them, but not be overly pushy or cross any boundaries they have as to how often they wish to be contacted. And you should also aim to add value to your contact while keeping in touch.
Here are some ways you can do that:
Emailing links of your favourite article to them is one of the easiest ways to keep in touch. You come across an article you enjoyed reading and you think your contact will do too, (based on their likes in the “Notes” column of your spreadsheet) you can bookmark it, and then email it to them later.
You can give them a brief summary of a good book you just read, which is relevant to their industry or that is about something you are both interested in. Simply type up notes on the book, convert it to PDF, and send it to your contact.
You can also copy places you highlighted in the book if it is an e-book, and send it to them as a PDF.
Another good way to show your contact that you care about what’s going on in their lives is to congratulate and applaud them whenever the reach a huge career milestone, get a new job, a promotion, give a presentation, or publish a book.
Don’t hesitate to send them a quick note congratulating them on their win. Also, be specific when sending out the note to them.
Tell them what part of their article or book you really liked, what part of their presentation video you saw online that really spoke to you. These things will make your message more memorable, than a mere “congrats”.
If an insight given by your contact either through a recent presentation or article, helped you solve a career challenge, or re-think your career strategy, ensure to thank them for their advice, no matter how busy you are.
Your gratitude can go a long way, as most people love hearing how they made a difference in someone’s life.
Email is a good way to keep in touch with someone, but meeting face to face is both invaluable and priceless. If you can, make plans to meet up with a contact within your geographic location to have drinks or lunch or dinner every few months.
If you are going on a trip to another city and one of your close contacts happen to be there as well, see if they will be available to meet with you. Depending on the nature of your relationship with them, you can just catch up or use it as an opportunity to discuss something specific like a project you can help them with or you want them to collaborate on.
Keep in mind that not all of your contacts will respond to your invites, or be available to meet with you, but don’t let that discourage you from reaching out to others.
If you can be able to maintain a good rapport with just 20% of your network, you will witness a massive shift in the power of your network to provide you with new opportunities. People will start to reach out to you when they hear of new job opportunities and send you relevant information that will be of good use to you.
And if you wish to use your network for recommendations or advice, most of your contacts will be more than willing to help you out.
If you really want to move ahead in your career, you need to learn how to master the art of networking. As the popular saying goes "your worth in 5 years time is a sum collection of the people you hang out with today".
Start networking more already!