Many people don’t like networking simply because they don’t know how to do it right. It’s not about presenting a superficial or false image of yourself or being friendly to people only to gain an advantage. Instead, it’s about building lasting, valuable and mutually beneficial relationships. Here are some tips for doing well and getting the most out of it.
1. Determine What You Want to Achieve
Having a goal in mind when you go to a networking event will make your time more productive. For example, you can aim for connecting with one or two people or connecting with a specific person. When you achieve your goal, you don’t have to hang around, overstay your welcome or try to force meaningless conversations.
2. Prepare and Research
Don’t make the mistake of going to a networking event unprepared. After all, you wouldn’t go to an interview unprepared. To get ready for networking, find out who will be attending, including the speakers. Then, you can use LinkedIn and other sources to learn about them. As a result, you’ll find out who you should connect with.
3. Plan Ahead to Make a Good First Impression
Making a good impression is important when you meet new people, especially when you’re networking. The hardest part is usually beginning a conversation. Rather than ask people what they do, ask something that helps you really get to know them. For instance, ask about their story and what they expect to get out of the event.
4. Be Natural and Buddy Up
Don’t force yourself to behave in a way that’s unnatural for you because that won’t help you over the long term. It will only make you dislike your connections and networking more. Instead, act natural. Also, don’t go to big events just because you have a better chance of making connections. If you don’t like big crowds, go to small events or schedule one-on-one meetings.
On the other hand, you might feel more comfortable at events if you take an ally. The reason is that it’s easier to join a conversation than to start one. Having a buddy with you can help your conversations along.
5. Jump in Line
If you go to a networking event alone, standing in line for the buffet, restroom or bar is a good tactic for striking a conversation with someone new. It will come naturally to talk to the person behind or in front of you. Best of all, you won’t be in line forever. If you don’t want to connect long term with the people in line with you, you can easily part ways.
6. Follow Up
Building a connection isn’t complete when a networking event ends. Follow up with your new connections by adding them on LinkedIn, sending them an email or calling them. You could even schedule meetings to learn more about them.
7. Practice to Improve Your Skills
It’s tough to meet new people whether or not you’re networking. Like everything else, though, it gets easier the more that you do it. Following the above tips will build your networking skills. And eventually, it will become second nature.
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