Networking is an art that takes practice to master. The wider the network, the greater reach your message and your brand will have. After all, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. So how do you start to make these connections? A new contact can provide new viewpoints and new opportunities. Here are six tips to network like a pro.
Download PDF version of this issue: 6 ways to add fireworks to your networking
- Develop a roadmap. The first step to successful networking is to figure out where you should be headed and what stops to make along the way. Before the year ends, create an events calendar with dates for all major industry conferences and meetings. Start local and go from there. Make it your mission to attend at least 10 events each year. Conferences like Fortune Brainstorm TECH and Thrive are popular for business leaders and key influencers. Watch for speaking and panel opportunities.
- Do your research. Before an event, pinpoint who will be there. Look at speakers’ social media activity and browse through recent media coverage of them. Subscribe to newsletters and news alerts from major outlets like The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal and business trades such as Inc., Forbes and Entrepreneur. Collect information so that, when an introduction occurs, you can work what you have learned into the conversation. It only takes one tidbit to strike a connection.
- Step outside your comfort zone. Make a point to talk to new people. If you’re an introvert, start a conversation with someone who is standing alone. They may appreciate that you were the initiator. For the more socially confident, stake out a high-traffic location like the bar or near the check-in table. This will give you access to many potential connections.
- Be a giver. Start with your business card. Make this exchange more memorable by handwriting additional contact information or a keyword relating to your conversation on it. Introduce your new connections to the people you’ve already met, especially when you see a reason why they should meet.
- Be smart about social. The number of Fortune 500 CEOs on Twitter continues to rise. Social media allows you to network at the palm of your hands. Conferences always have a hashtag – use it for your posts and to see what other attendees have shared. Join the conversation, ask questions and jump in when you see an opening. This will be the easiest way to network.
- Stay connected. After a conference or a business lunch, don’t stop networking. Keep in touch. Connect with new contacts on LinkedIn, and while you’re at it, publish a post about the event, its value and your key takeaways. Don’t just build your network, stay engaged with your network.
It’s crucial to meet new people to grow a business or build a brand. You’re not trying to become fast friends, but rather establish a professional relationship that will benefit both parties. The more opportunities for growth and exposure, the better. With the rise of social media, the world has become more connected than ever. Take advantage of the tools that are already at your disposal.
Send the invite, pick up the phone. Practice these tips at your next summer party.