Recently I was asked to give a networking presentation at the Google offices in Austin, TX for members of the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce. It was a pleasure to facilitate a networking session for the members present, but one thing that can’t always come forth in 45 minute seminar sessions is a list of practical networking advice that you can take forth with you at your next networking event.
After the talk I got to thinking of some practical tips that can make a networking event more effective. Take this step by step approach to get the most out of your next event:
1) Set your goal: I have said it before but I will say it again, have a goal in mind. Don’t go to an event merely to network. Go with the intention to make something happen. Maybe you need a new referral source, maybe you need to find someone to hand a resume to. Maybe you want to find a new golfing partner. Whatever the goal in, have one in mind.
2) Ask how you can help: One thing I notice out of very successful networkers is that they go into networking events with what can be described as a “giving spirit.” When you meet someone and make a connection, try to show warmth by dropping in the phrase: “How can I help you?” You will be amazed how frequently that willingness to help others achieve their goals will open people up to help you in turn.
3) Compliment people: A great way to make people open up to you more is by always having a warm compliment ready. There really is no need to be fake about this. You can usually find something positive about anyone. When I first meet someone I like to use the exercise of finding three things about someone that I see about them, even on a superficial level, that I can compliment them on. For instance, I might like their smile, shoes and watch. You have something to immediately compliment them on. After conversing with someone, you might find something deeper to compliment them on. Compliment someone in an exchange and you will go far.
4) Follow up: Networking is not just about meeting an interacting with someone the first time. You will be miles ahead in networking if you follow up after meeting people. Networking is about creating a network of people you can keep up with, otherwise it would just be chatting. After you meet someone at an event, be sure to ask them out for a coffee or a lunch to get to know them more and see if your interests are aligned.
What other practical advice can you offer? Feel free to share.