You may be asking, what does networking have to do with snow skiing? Read on! Besides, it’s wintry cold outside so this blog post is in honor of the season.
Here's the situation: You have a stack of great new business cards in your pocket. You’re on the road to a new networking event with high expectations.
You arrive, braving the cold wind in the parking lot …. but then you hesitate at the doorway, eyeing the crowd. That inner voice is asking the same question it asked a few weeks ago when you were poised at the top of the black diamond mogul run your significant other had dared you to ski down:
Why are you here? This looks impossible! But I have to do it, it might be fun…
And then the doubter voice chimes -- isn’t this a waste of time? After all, networking is so random!
If this sounds familiar, then read on:
Research — If you are beginning to think networking is a waste of time, most probably in the past it was. You can avoid this by checking if you are attending the right events. Think about the people you most want to meet -- your target market, as you can call it, for networking. Your targets should be people who are decision-makers, influencers, folks who have complementary competencies, potential referral colleagues or possibly professionals that are further along in their careers who might help mentor or advise you. Networking events that are comprised of mostly professional peers or people “peddling” the same services are sometimes comfortable and good for continuing education but most probably not going to be the most helpful for leads.
Many event organizers post a list of attendees. Check the event site and if they do, this can be helpful to determine if you want to attend. You can also see if there is someone on the list to make a special effort to try to meet.
Have a goal — When I first started networking, I found having an attainable goal of just connecting to two people helped propel me into the room full of strangers. After all, it was only two people – how hard can that be? As you become more comfortable in the networking situation build on your goal. Say, I won’t leave until I have the contact information of two people that I could possiblely assist or they could possibly be of help to me. REMEMBER: It is always worth the time to help others in their situations. You never know whom they may know and besides, good karma really does come around eventually!!
Be interested and REALLY listen — Asking good questions can be another networking objective. Not sure what to ask? Click for suggestions. Remember, ask questions and then really take the time, energy and focus to listen to what the other person has to say. A rule of thumb I have is to challenge myself to ask at least two follow-up questions for clarification or investigation. This helps my understanding of the other individual’s situation and demonstrates you really care. Genuine interest is appreciated and guess what?? There are many fascinating people to connect with out there.
Try not to monopolize someone’s time at the event or let them monopolize yours. Remember, networking is about numbers so the more folks you meet, the better the odds for a complementary match. Unfortunately, sometimes it is necessary to tactfully cut someone off – this is tough, but your doing both of you a favor as this is time spent that will really not help either of you. I once read that everyone you meet has a nugget of gold to offer and it’s up to you to find it. That may or may not be true, but after you’ve gotten a good sense of the person, move on, so both of you can mingle and accomplish your networking goals.
Efficiently meeting people at events is only the beginning of networking. How you follow up is a key link in the chain of connecting yourself to potential prospects, clients, reciprocal colleagues or mentors who can help you achieve your ultimate goals. Watch for next week's blog for tips on how to make your follow-up effective and productive.
Just like skiing down that dreaded mogul ski run, timing, technique and confidence will get you successfully to your goal (Or in this case to the lodge next to a crackling fireplace) and you will feel great!
Your insights and additions are valued and appreciated. Please respond to our networking tips with any experiences, techniques or insights you have from your successful networking activities!
Thanks for reading !
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