Networking is a vital part of doing business nowadays. However, many people are still intimidated by the idea of walking into a room full of strangers and “networking”. Often, an image of a pushy, sleazy “used car” sales man comes to mind. The truth is that networking doesn’t have to be that way. Yes, you will encounter some people that are like that. Most people are networking to meet new people that can help them connect with other professionals.
The majority of people don’t have a concrete plan when they go to a networking event. Always have a reason to be at the event. It is good to be present–it is even better to have goals. Get into the habit of setting goals for yourself and you will get more out of the events. For example, set a goal of meeting three new people. Be strategic about the types of people you want to meet to extend your network.
A good way to meet a large amount of people is to introduce yourself first. This is hard to do in the beginning. The best way to get into the habit of introducing yourself is to practice. It only gets easier with practice. Soon, it will come naturally. Another, good idea is to ask a lot of questions. Humanize the process and find things you have in common. Ask what they like to do in their free time. Have a conversation not an interrogation. The best way of really making a connection is to offer to help.
Remember people do business with people they like. Be nice and be likeable. Show genuine interest in people. The most important thing to remember is that networking is about building relationships. Remember that relationships take time. When you meet someone, follow up! That is the number one mistakes professionals make. Getting the business card is good but it does you no good if you don’t take action! Send an email and invite someone to coffee. Connect on a personal level and continue the conversation.
Building relationships is one of the most important skills any professional can have. Keep in mind that this can take months, even years. The key is to continue to build out your network–you never know who can make that key introduction.
If you are in the Washington, DC metro area stop by our FREE workshop to learn more about networking best practices. Sign up here: http://www.eventbrite.com/s/98u9
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