Are You Networking or "Notworking"?
Michelle Schrage Shares "How-To's".
Oftentimes I meet two types of people when it comes to “networking” and business – one type says “Part of my job is I HAVE to go meet people” and the other type says “Part of my job is I GET to go meet people.” Which one are you? Do you genuinely enjoy it or do you simply recognize its importance and muster through it?
Both are absolutely okay – but the way we “network” varies based on the way we approach it.
Interacting with other people doesn’t have to be seen as a chore or an unfortunate side effect of entering into a business development role. But it also can’t be seen as simply a fun escape from the workplace. Whether you are an entrepreneur or in a sales role, relationships are what makes things happen. And relationships can only start when we put ourselves out there to meet others.
Knowing people is undoubtedly a valuable commodity – and being known by people is arguably more valuable. So, how does one raise their social capital and then more importantly, how does one capitalize on it?
If you are engaging in a conversation, be present, attentive, and respectful.
A quote that resonates with me is from Woody Allen, he says “Eighty percent of life is just showing up.” And when it comes to networking, that certainly applies. Those who can take it to the next level, not only show up, but become engaged and are engaging.
I’ve planned well over a hundred networking events over the years, and I’ve attended twice as many. I’ve won awards for being involved in the community, and was even the recipient of Networker of the Year in 2015. So that makes me wonder – what does it mean to be an effective networker? Is it a natural skill, or can it be coached?
Eighty percent of life is just showing up. And when it comes to networking, that certainly applies.
Keys to effective networking:
- Pay attention to your body language. Smile. Even if you have to force it a little. One of the most effective ways to become approachable to is to have a pleasant look on your face and a welcoming glint in your eye. Keep your shoulders open, your arms separated, and don’t be afraid to lightly touch someone on their elbow or back. Appropriate physical touch can often go a long way in building positive rapport.
- Make eye contact. Even in a busy room, it’s imperative to show interest and respect to the person with whom you are speaking. It’s easy to get distracted or feel tempted to scan the room in the middle of a conversation, but that is a surefire way to make the other person feel that you are disinterested. If you are engaging in a conversation, be present, be attentive, and be respectful.
- Ask questions. You should never have to fear an awkward silence if you are prepared with well thought out questions and you ask them with a genuine curiosity to learn about the other person. Try to avoid “yes” or “no” questions, but rather ask open-ended questions that elicit a thoughtful and personal response.
- Prepare and know what you need to accomplish. The term “networking” can be deemed “notworking” if you are not making progress. Think about a few objectives beforehand: To deepen relationships with people you already know, personally and professionally; to get introduced to people you have not yet met; to find people you can help; to find people who can help you, etc. Also, attendee lists are often published ahead of time, so do your research. Decide who you want to meet and plan out how the conversation will go. What action items do you want to purpose at the end of your conversation?
- Follow up soon after – connect on LinkedIn and include a personalized message or send an email with your company signature line. One of the most effective strategies for building relationships is to set up a coffee or lunch meeting soon after to get to know one another better and see what assistance you can provide.
- Be genuinely helpful. When others start receiving helpful connections from you, you are positioning yourself as someone worth knowing. That will then help perpetuate additional introductions from your network.
- Go with a wingman. I have accompanied many people to networking events as a source of comfort and support – and quite frankly, sometimes it’s easier to meet people that way. But don’t get stuck in your comfort zone.