Maximizing Your Networking Efforts
Thursday, March 17th, 2011
By Janice B. Gonzalez
The key to taking advantage of significant networking opportunities is to improve your interpersonal communication skills. Knowing how to start, how to continue and how to end interesting and sincere conversations will help you circulate among people with ease and confidence.
Try the following suggestions the next time you’re invited to a function. Keep in mind that every event can be made productive if you give it a little thought before you go. Planning in advance will enable you to approach any business or social function with enthusiasm and purpose.
1. Who, What, When & Where: Prepare for the event in advance by knowing who will be attending, what the purpose of the event is, and when the networking starts and ends. This will allow you to prepare some short briefing notes for yourself prior to the event and ensure that you arrive early enough to network.
2. Think specifically about the benefits of attending – both professional and personal. Clarify in your mind how you might benefit prior to attending. i.e. Exposure, referrals, new contacts?
3. Develop and practice your self-introduction. It should be clear, concise, distinctive and engaging. It should be tied into the event in some way with a connecting statement. For example, at a business chamber function: “Hello! I’m Janice Gonzalez with JBG Communications.” This will break the ice and have the other person respond in the same manner, creating a conversation about what each of you do for your respective companies.
4. Practice your handshake. It should be a firm clasp that joins palm-to-palm, not finger-to-finger. Not excessively firm or weak. Keep in mind that your handshake always makes an impression on others. It is a significant indicator of competence and confidence.
5. Prepare your small talk in advance. Read up on local and national issues. Come prepared with at least three pieces of conversation. When stuck for something to talk about, positive comments about the function, the facility or the food will always be appropriate.
6. Listen to others actively – not passively. Look people in the eye when talking to them. Nod, smile and ask relevant questions. Focus your full attention on the reactions, feelings and words of the other person and not on your own thoughts. Be in the moment with them!
7. Adopt a mind set that willingly offers help to others – without expectations. Incorporate the important questions, “How can I help you?” and “What can I do for you?” into your regular conversations. Think about what strengths you have to offer others. Networking is about building relationships with others. Give people what they want and you’ll get what you want when you need it.
8. Have your business card ready to hand out, especially when asked for it. Make sure that you bring enough cards for the event. Also remember to bring a pen. If you run out of cards, offer to write your information on the back of their card.
9. Regularly collect business cards from new contacts. Write relevant comments on the back as soon as possible regarding date, conversation and follow-up strategy. Then make sure you follow up.
10. The value of networking contacts is diminished if you neglect to implement an appropriate follow-up procedure. Whether by phone, fax, personal appointment, or a hand written note, make sure to follow up on your networking contacts. Keep accurate records of contacts by using a personalized documentation method that works well for you.
Remember to approach every new contact with an open mind and an open heart. You never know where each new relationship may lead. Doors will be opened . . . friendships gained . . . your life will be greatly enriched.
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