What do you think of when you hear the word “networking?” Many people think of happy hour, or just shooting the breeze with others.
While I think it is important to genuinely care about others and spend quality time talking about both work and non-work things, networking is really supposed to be about “working.” You “work the room.”
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The point of networking is to get your name out there, find potential partners, or maybe even some clients. You build relationships with people you might be already be business with or people you are considering doing business with.
People do business with people they like. So this is a great opportunity to get others to know, like, and trust you.
How most people network
I would bet that most people network to get in on free drinks and food, and talk to a few friends they already have for hours at an event.
This is not productive! While it may be fun, you are just killing time. On top of that, you’re not taking the opportunity to expand your network and meet new people.
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Networking like the elite
The elite “work the room” and do so with a purpose. They work to talk to as many people as possible and keep conversations short when necessary.
When they meet someone new, they tell that person what they are looking to find from the event and see if that new contact has met anyone that can help in the room.
When they do this, they shortcut their way to those people. As you meet others, try to leverage the people they’ve already met to quickly triangulate who you need to connect with.
Networking tips to keep in mind
#1 |Be confident when you enter the room
Confidence is important. Be aware of your body language. Have a good, firm handshake and avoid crossing your arms or acting disinterested when conversing with others.
You deserve to be in the room and have value to add to others.
#2 | Consider starting off a conversation with the question: “what brings you out tonight?”
If you’re at an industry specific event like a real estate event, obviously they are at the event for real estate. But maybe they are a lender. Or maybe they flip houses. Perhaps they are looking for a rental property? There are still tons of things that can vary in the answers to that question.
If it’s a generic networking event, like a “Young Professionals” event, you’ll find an even wider audience in attendance. There tend to be a lot of people trying to sell services at these events, so you’ll have to wade through a lot more “spam” if you will to find the gold.
#3 | Try your best to remember others’ names
Dale Carnegie has some sage advice in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. “Remember that a person’s name is to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
When you meet someone new, practice remembering their name, and say it a few times in the conversation to make sure it sticks. This is something I’m working on getting better at. When you’re at an event meeting dozens of people, this gets pretty tough to do.
Another tip I recommend is to note something special or specific down to remember someone. If you learned they have a kid who plays soccer or a passion for Corvettes, keep that noted down and mention something personal in your follow up email to show that you were paying attention.
#4 | Perhaps the most important thing is to focus on listening.
Others love talking about themselves. You’ll find that the more you let someone talk about themselves, the more they’ll seem to like you. They’ll think the conversation went great even if it was mainly them talking!
#5 | Have a plan. Work the plan.
As with anything else, with networking, you should have a plan and work the plan. I set a timer for myself to make sure I stay efficient. I will give myself one or two hours and plan to leave as soon as the timer goes off on my phone.
This forces me to stay cognizant of time. I don’t want any one conversation to take too long. Unless you meet the most important person in the room, I would try to keep the conversation to 5 or 10 minutes to make sure you have time to talk to as many people as possible.
Play it by ear though. If you think you’ve struck up a great conversation with someone who is a power player, definitely spend as much time as you think is necessary to make that relationship last.
Tying it all together
These are a few of many tips when it comes to networking. It requires practice and consistency. It’s something that you’ll get better at with time.
Networking is definitely a balancing act. On one hand, you want to be efficient and meet as many people as possible. On the other hand, you want to actually befriend people and have meaningful conversations. So sometimes you can be flexible with the tips I mentioned today.
Feel free to talk longer with someone if you’re really getting along great. Maybe talk more about your story if they insist on hearing more of what you have to say.
- Be confident when you enter the room
- Consider starting off a conversation with the question: “what brings you out tonight?”
- Try your best to remember others’ names
- Perhaps the most important thing is to focus on listening.
- Have a plan. Work the plan.
Remember that you’ll get better at networking over time. Don’t overthink or over plan it though. Just remember these tips, practice them, and then reflect on how well you implemented these things at events after you attend.
“You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want” – Zig Ziglar.
Keep this in mind when networking and meeting people. If you come at the relationship from “how much value can I add?” instead of “what can this person do for me?”, you will see the value come back to you multiple times over.
Pick a few tips from my post today or any others that you’ve heard and make a plan. Practice in your head or out loud what you will say when you meet others. “What brings you out tonight?
Then head over to Meetup.com, Eventbrite.com, or Facebook events and find a few events coming up that you can go to and practice.
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