“Networking is an investment in your business. It takes time and when done correctly can yield great results for years to come.”
– Diane Helbig, Author
Whether it’s a specialized conference or just a general work occasion, it is well known the paramount importance of networking in business and other ventures. Establishing strong connections with both people new to you and with those which you already have a familiarity, can provide endless opportunity in the long run. But for some, knowing how to make that first contact and establish meaningful conversation can be difficult. Luckily, there are few tips to help improve networking skills.
First, don’t always seem overeager. Yes, it’s important to have energy and charisma, but many people find it really off putting to be hounded by questions so quickly. Take your time and establish conversation rather than acting in a transactional fashion. One way to avoid this appearance of over-eagerness, is to simply listen. In many networking scenarios you are not necessarily talking in a one on one situation, so if you join a conversation, take the time to listen before interjecting yourself into the spotlight.
While you don’t want to seem artificial, it’s always good to have a niche interest or anecdote at your disposal. Many of these interactions can go stale or have an awkward air about them. Having an effective anecdote often times allows people to get to know you better and feel more comfortable in conversation. Along the same lines, having a specialization or interest about yourself that you are willing to talk about gives something for others to latch onto in conversation and engage with you more thoroughly.
Aside from listening and being present in a conversation, when it is your turn to speak, make sure to express honest interest in the other person. One effective way to achieve this is to show curiosity in their areas or interest. Rather than relate to what they’re saying by talking about yourself, attempt to ask questions that show genuine interest in what they have to say.
Many of these strategies seem simple or obvious mostly because, well, they are. Effective networking is really about being present and honest in your interactions. It can be beneficial in this regard to treat networking like making new friends. Understanding, in this regard, how to best present yourself as authentic as possible will be the deciding factor in the kinds of relationships and opportunities that lie ahead.
Kelly D. Scott
The world’s leading business advisory and executive coaching organization