Networking 101

How to build long term connections through networking

When attending job fairs, trade events, conferences or even luncheons there are many opportunities to network with other s. Before attending any networking event it is best to have what many refer to as an elevator speech ready before attending a networking event. An elevator speech is a few sentences about yourself and your work that is no longer than an elevator ride. This keeps it short and sweet to not bore whoever you are speaking to and to get across only important information.

Networking begins when you first step into the room. Try to get there early in order to not rush the conversation. Don’t always stick close to people you know, move around the room and if it is a sit down occasion be sure to sit with people you don’t know. Show enthusiasm when meeting new people and actively listen instead of immediately selling yourself or your work. If you walk up to a group of people already talking do not interrupt. It is best to allow a few minutes and eye contact before engaging.

It is also important to approach a conversation in terms of “how might I help you” instead of “how can you help me”. It is a simple distinction-that you are networking yourself and your organizations services for the benefit of others, and it goes a long way in establishing respect for those you are engaging with.

Business cards are a helpful tool to get someone’s information at events. Some believe they are no longer a useful tool but in reality we all have them and we continue to use them. At a networking event allow easy access to your business cards like your pocket instead of purse or wallet. After your conversation is over and you have both gone your separate ways, write a quick note on the back of the card with where you met and the date. It is important to follow up in the next 48 hours. You want to develop a relationship and long term connections and by calling or emailing within 48 hours. It shows your interest in building a relationship. Here are a few other tips to successful networking:

  • Get out of your comfort zone-make the effort to engage with new contacts at every event
  • Dress for Success-There is no doubt; a first impression has a lot to do with how you look.
  • Leadership-take any opportunities to develop a leadership role in the association or networking group you are involved with. It will gain you respect within your networking peers. Networking relationships often take over a year to realize any potential, so stay involved.
  • Understand their needs before you discuss your needs.
  • Everyone is relevant-in some way, shape or form; there can be some benefit to every contact you make.
  • Help others engage by introducing people-This will build your network and reinforce existing relationships.
  • Volunteer-working on a committee or volunteering in some capacity for your networking group will gain you a captive audience and the opportunity to show how effectively you can work.