I am not an English major but I believe that words ending in -ing signify action or verb–or describing an action in the moment. It is interesting to me that people consider going to networking events networking. Showing up does not mean we are doing. How many people go to work and are not actually working? The same applies to NetWORK-ing. Networking is more than showing up. It is going to the event and taking action. For some people, this action does not seem like WORK. For others of us, it can be WORK or even painful. Here are some rules I apply when I go NetWORK-ing. And for the record, it used to be a painful experience for me and now it is actually enjoyable.
1. Nobody cares about you. They are there to talk about their business. Help them do this well and you will make great connections.
2. The majority of people are nervous to some degree in new environments and social situation so keep this in mind and be the one to take the first step. I was working with a client recently who is still fearful of networking events. She stepped into her fear zone at an event recently and initiated a conversation with a woman in line for drinks. The woman ended up being a key contact with a client of her firm and they are now talking and building a relationship. SCORE!
3. Help connect other people and you are the star! If you know two people in the room that would benefit from meeting one another, take the time to introduce them. When you do they will appreciate your help in facilitating the meet.
4. Stay away from the brochure people. You know, the ones with the stack of brochures in their hands and laser beam eyes constantly scanning the room for their next contact. Just don’t make eye contact and act like you did not see them. If you do get trapped, take a brochure and be on your way.
5. Use the pocket system to separate out the wheat from the chaff. Good contacts in left pocket, duds and brochure pushers in right pocket. At the end of the night, walk to the nearest recycle bin and empty out your right pocket. This will keep your good contacts from getting lost in the piles of cards.
6. Email left pocket people and ask them to go to coffee. If you met at a mixer or event that you are both members of, ask them to meet you for a drink before so you can get to know them and just add on a few minutes of time for both of you.
7. Don’t go if you are not up to it. This is not a cop out or excuse not to network. What I mean is if you are not feeling good or upbeat it would be best to not go versus go and have a horrible experience and a negative impression of networking. This makes it harder to go in the future. If you are constantly skipping events when you really need to go for your line of work then there is a different issue going on.
8. When you get to your car jot down a few notes about each left pocket card so you remember some details of your conversation.
I am sure there are 800 more tips to successful networking. My main tip is it is WORK and requires action.