As I keynoted a conference last weekend, I reminded the hundreds of attendees that they were at a networking event. Their ideal client could be discovered in the hotel lobby or a new business mentor could be sitting in row 4. Truth is, every time you have an opportunity to make new connections you are networking. As the saying goes, you never know who someone knows – unless you ask.
photo ©2007 by luc legay, Flikr http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
5 inspired tips to make networking work for you:
Think Outside The Box: Last year I became a 50-year-old sorority “pledge”, as an alumnae initiate of Delta Phi Epsilon International Sorority. I know what you’re thinking: “Sorority?”. Yes, a Sorority is a network. DPhiE is 55,000+ members strong, with a vision to develop women leaders to be their best selves. The connections and friends I’ve made are priceless, and continue to grow, as I become more engaged both socially and professionally with my new sisters. From one-on-one coffee meet-ups to happy hours and joining the Fantasy Football Team, I make the time to get involved and develop connections for life.
Share Who You Are vs. What You Do: What’s the one question everyone asks as soon as they meet you? “What do you do?” It’s like listening to Charlie Brown’s teacher, with an auto-programmed response. Instead, be bold and say what no one else is saying. Stop telling people what you do. Instead, share who you are and talk about the problems you solve. Being interesting keeps your new connection interested.
Become A Connector: Whether you’re attending your first networking event or you’re a networking pro, make your mark by becoming a connector. For women, this can be easier than you think. Think of the networking event as a party that you’re hosting – and your job is to introduce the guests that don’t know each other. Which might include you.
Before you go: Find out who you want to meet by checking the attendee list. Connect with the Leader of the group and ask who would be a good connection for you. The person running the event wants the networking event to be a success, so they’ll be more than happy you reached out. Break the ice and use social media to introduce yourself (via Twitter, LinkedIn or a Facebook event page) by sharing a resource or asking a question.
At the event: Be mindful of who you met that would be a great connection for each other. For example, if you meet an interior designer and a construction contractor, ask if they know each other. If not, go into “Hostess” mode and become a connector. That’s how you become memorable.
After the event: Tune-in and follow up with the like-minded people you want to connect with by setting a date to meet for coffee. Your intention should be to share – before you sell. Discover how you can help each other and go from there.
Ask The Right Questions: Two questions that will multiply your networking results are 1) What are you excited about? and 2) How can I help you? When you ask “What are you excited about?”, you’ll connect on a deeper level and really find out what your new contact is passionate about. “How can I help you?” communicates that you are interested in something other than handing out business cards to everyone and anyone. Listen and offer suggestions. If you think of a referral, write it down on your business card. I can guarantee you, your card won’t end up in the land of forgotten contacts.
Show Up As Your Brand: We’ve all heard the saying, “you can’t judge a book by its cover”. The reality is people do. As soon as you walk in the door at a networking event, attendees are making a decision about who you are, and what you do, by how you show up. Your wardrobe, attitude, energy, the whole package, should all communicate your brand. Which means if you’re walking in the door looking like a hot mess, or your first comment is a complaint about how busy you are, you are probably the reason networking is not working for you. I’ve even had people come up to me and say – in a non-compliment kind of way – “You’re always so busy. Where do you get your energy?” What they are really saying is they have no time, and no energy. My reply? “I’m blessed to live an abundant life because I’m passionate about what I do!”
For more tips on how to show up as your brand, read: Visionista Brand Photo Shoot
Lynn Bardowski is a direct sales expert, best-selling author and speaker. For insights on entrepreneurship, leadership and vision, read her book, listen to her radio show, follow her blog, and “LIKE” her Facebook page.