As I watch people network in networking meetings, I am often surprised. Meeting new people should be fun, but many people are stressed when they network. Why ? They become stressed because they attach an outcome to networking. Networking should not be focused on a direct result, it should be used to build your brand. The difference is that you build a brand by creating exposure, but only when the brand and good reputation have been secured are you able to utilize that brand to easily secure new business.
Tip 1. Brand first – business second
Ineffective networking will make your networking experience a miserable one. If you become miserable you are less likely to close the deal, or strike up the right relationship with the key person you need to progress in your career, business or life.
Tip 2. Go to meetings you enjoy.
Example – I’m a night person, I usually prefer to network from lunch onwards.
At networking meetings I see people rushing to swap business cards, cover the room, see as many people as they can, it all looks a bit desperate. You should be looking for people who you can build a relationship with and then enjoy the benefits of mutual cooperation to help each other succeed. Do they need to become clients or business partners? No, they just need to become your friends.
Tip 3. Write on the card – the answers to the questions that will help you remember them.
So if you are at a networking meeting, don’t be surprised if you spend all night with just one or two people, if there’s a chance to really get to know someone, you should do just that, and enjoy the time.
Yes there are times when you want to collect all the contacts, I recently spoke in London at a B O C event, and some of my fellow speakers I really did not want to miss the chance to become LinkedIn to them. They are my industry peers and in Social Media Marketing we are often stronger as collective alliances than as individual social media experts.
So you are offered a card, should you take it? Yes, of course, to do otherwise will hurt the other persons feelings. So what should do with it, firstly ask if they network online. If yes, ask them which site they prefer to use.
Tip 4. Do what you promise at the event.
Loose connections are more effective online than offline. Why?
Offline loose connections do not add to your credibility, they are just a business card that collects dust, somewhere in the corner of your office. Online they increase your exposure to others looking for your services or products.
Normally though, most people at a networking event will just become “I know them” contacts. However, this is the power of loose connections, or as I call them “thin threads that grew stronger”. We all know repetition increases memory retention. So how do you utilize better memory retention in your networking actions to take you closer to your goals?
Offline – go to the same events regularly. Become known.
Online – be present, connect, post regularly, respond, thank, and allow time to let those thin threads grow stronger.
Having decided we want to build a brand what is needed in networking, assuming we are as yet unknown?
Tip 5 – Branding Tips
A. Decide which expertise you want to be known as the expert in?
B. Define which networking events are best suited to achieving A.
C. Always connect online where people are active, but make sure you network online where that person chooses to network online.
D. Offer friendship, deliver a “Pay it Forward”
So what is my very unusual take on networking?
I allow people to self sort.
I do not concern myself over the outcome of a relationship, I allow people to choose me. If they decide not to, that’s OK, as they almost say in Star Wars “these are not the people I was looking for” alliances are ONLY SECURED when everyone is at ease.
Self sorting works, but you need to play the long game …. not the short game.
If you want instant results, I’m not your guide, pick someone else.