I offer a half-day workshop on networking. I recently spoke at the University of Delaware about how to network successfully. Two days ago in a car on the way to an event the topic turned to networking. I was giving a few tips and ideas when someone asked, “Do you have a blog post about this?” Uh, no. So without further ado, my top five tips for successful networking.
1. Be prepared – If you haven’t spent time thinking through your elevator pitch and being asked, “what do you do?” makes you freeze up, networking is going to be uncomfortable, something you dread and you will avoid it. If you need help creating your perfect elevator pitch – go here
1a. Have business cards with your correct contact information – I had someone ask me for mentorship recently. I told her I would send her an email with times I was available. Turns out the email address on the card she gave me isn’t valid. If I can’t reach you I can’t help you and I can’t refer business to you.
2. Have a plan – There are a few people who can just show up and it works for them. For the rest of us, networking can turn into social hour (you know what I’m talking about). Check the guest list to pick out 2-3 people you want to connect with. If they are really big targets, research them online before the event. Once you’re there, ask the person running it if they can help you make the connections. Asking, “who else is here that I should meet” has gotten me some great introductions.
3. Don’t be distracted by the food and drink – Standing by the buffet table grazing or hiding in a corner eating dinner isn’t why you’re there. Eat before you go so you’re not starving when you get there. You may also consider that studies have shown people with a wine glass in their hand are perceived to be several IQ points dumber than those drinking water. I recommend water without ice so you don’t end up with a wet hand from condensation.
4. Ask how and why questions – People love telling their story. Give them the opportunity to do so by asking why they do what they do and how they got into it. How and why are great questions to ask about any subject (where they live, where they went to school, where they work, food they like, etc, etc, etc). You will never run out of conversation if you remember to ask how and why.
5. Follow up – This might be the ball I help clients not drop most often. Set up time to have coffee to learn more about them and share more about you. Ask them what their biggest challenge is at the moment or who their ideal clients are. Just make sure you’re prepared to answer the question “How can I support your success?” Too often I get deer in the headlights when I ask this question. You can’t get what you want if you don’t know what it is.
Bonus tip for introverts – Set a time limit. There is no rule that you have to be there for the whole event. Decide to be “on” for 90 minutes (or however long works for you), meet the people you came to meet and take your leave. It is much less exhausting when there is an end in sight.
How do you make networking events work for you rather than waste your time?
As always, I wish you the MOST from your potential!
Dr. Robyn Odegaard (aka “Doc Robyn”) is full service executive coach and performance trainer. To work with her, have her present to your team, request a custom workshop, invite her to speak at your event or order her books in bulk, please call 302-307-3091 or email her at DocRobyn@ChampPerformance.com.