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Networking in a nutshell

By Julius Solaris
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Photo by: alisdair

Here we are ready for the new Linkedin question which this time gathered the attention of lots of Linkedin users. You already know we have a group there and I've asked questions in the past, therefore I'll just get down to business.

Question:

The top 5 tips to make networking happen?
One of the most important reasons why you attend a conference is for networking purposes. What are your tricks to facilitate networking? What are the characteristics of a successful networking session? What are the latest trends?

Turned out to be a great tip bonanza. If you are either organizing or attending a conference and really want to network you need to read this.

The best answer (the first you’ll see below) was selected, as always, according to my own preference. You can use comments to vote yours.

- Raja Mahendran - International Strategic Business Consultant and Executive Coach says:

1. Attitude
Go with the right attitude. If we go to a network event with the attitude of getting business we can be disappointed. Instead we should go with the attitude of giving. Go with the objective of helping at least two people in the group to succeed or give them ideas or share useful information.

2.It is not about you
Really get to know others by open ended questions. The objective should be to get to know others rather than taking the opportunity to tell all about yourself. When we show genuine interest in others they are going to be drawn to us.

3. Get to know people you never met and outside your expertise.
Do not just spend time only with people you met before. Meet as many new people but really get to know at least one or two. Also important you meet people outside your target market and area of expertise. If you are a management consultant do not think it is not important to meet say the store clerk at the event. You never know to whom they could introduce you.

4.Network all the time it is not something that can be worked up.
Network all the time and not focus on it only when sales are down or your job is on the line. It takes time to build relationships and be networking helping others and not just start when looking for help.

5.Be approachable stay close to the food and drinks. As for physical presence stay close to the food and drinks, almost everyone will come around and will be easier to catch their eye and look approachable wear a nametag.

I would recommend two great books on networking by Scott Ginsberg. The Power of Approachability and How to be that Guy.

- Dr. Letitia Wright, D.C. - Owner, The Wright Place TV Show says:

1. Knowing what you goal is for every single event you attend. Do you want to meet a specific person, or catagoy of business? How will you know you are successful
2. Be honest about the people at the event? Are they a good match to be your customers?
3. Ask about the other person first. Know what they are about before you pitch your business. A lot of people waste time telling me about medical stuff and then find out later, I dont practice anymore and am not interested in taht.
4. Try to create relationships and not just sell. People have just met you and are not going to buy from you the same day.
5. Follow up with a personal note or email. Because no one does this, you'll stand out as something special

- "Uncle Jay" White - Business Technology Consultant - Best Buy for Business says:

Consistency would be my top tip for people who are just starting out networking. You must network on a planned schedule and never stop.

Reliability - you must show up more often than not

Approachability - make yourself an individual who is engaging and personable

Promote - You must be willing to promote others first and yourself second

Follow up - What good is networking if you don's follow up.

- Jamina Coleman - Distric Manager / United First Financial says:

As a bussiness etiquette consultant, I find the most common networking mistake is "He or she who passes the most business cards wins." Nothing could be further from the truth. Carefully cultivated relationships do not result from a scattershot approach, but rather require an investment of genuine interest, time and energy. Networking is not about me but about "we".
Before you walk into a networking environment set your intention on identifying the top three to five people with whom you can create connections rather than adding a bunch of names to your data base.
Give the gift of your presence: be there completely. Give them your full attention, look them in the eyes, ask great questions and listen more than speak. Don't be held captive by your cell phone, turn it off.
Whenever you are talking to someone, you are really talking to his or her entire circle of influence. It could be that within that network is the perfect constituent to have in your network.
Suspend judgements and trust that whomever you have bumped into is someone you are supposed to meet.
Good relationship networking is more about the follow up and follow through than anything else. Set an intention to consistently connect with three people after the event. Send them a note telling them how much you have enjoyed meeting them, send them an article that will help them, invite them for coffee. Do it in any way that you use my favorite five words : How can I help you?" Do it with fun, excitement and vigor and know that when you are helping other people, you are positioning yourself for other people to help you.

- Cesar Brod - Executive Director and President of Brod Tecnologia says:

1. First of all, be very selective about the conferences you decide to participate. Lots of people want to "network" and more and more you see "networking professionals": the type of guys who goes fishing for opportunities in all available conferences. Of course, if you go fishing in several ponds you may catch a fish. However, it will be "any" fish, not the fish you really want. I have found that birds-of-a-feather type of events, small discussion "round tables" are far more effective than an event crowded with keynote speakers;

2. Be open to be contacted. Have your business card with you and your nametag visible.

3. Start a conversation with a real objective. There must be a good reason to bump into someone enjoying a conference snack. If is someone you know from somewhere (another conference, the author of a blog or a book, a technology expert) let this one know the reason you are talking to him. Introduce yourself and be clear about what you want: "Hi, my name is Cesar Brod, I have read your postings on Ajax and they have helped me quite a lot, I wonder if..."

4. Don't be the only one talking in a conversation. I get extremely annoyed when someone comes to talk to me and pretty much spill out his/hers resume and throw me a business card before I have the time to swallow my conference snack. Usually these are the type of "networking professionals" I mentioned on item 1.

5. Know when to shut up. Sometimes people are not in their best mood or they just don't want to talk. Maybe they don't want to talk to you for some reason. Maybe they are also waiting to talk to someone they find more interesting then you. Awkward situations may arise in moments like these. If you got an email address, this is fine. Make contact later and you may find out that the person you tried to talk was just shy and she/he will be a lot more open after a few emails are exchanged.

- Antoine Boatwright - EMEA Head of Commercial Services Marketing says:

My keys to successful networking are:
a/ be genuinely interested in people. Be sincere.
b/ make any relationship balanced - bring something to it and not just take
c/ give it time. There is a natural time to ask things. That time differs by person, by culture, by industry and other factors. But it is like having a baby. It takes nine months irrespective how many people you throw at it. So too in relationships: it takes the time it takes
d/ develop empathy in order to relate. That means exploring commonality before going in for the kill
e/ be sincere.
f/ always keep your promises
g/ let other people network with you.
h/ get a good tracking mechanism where you can keep track of important dates etc..
i/do not go to broad such that you only ever touch people once in a blue moon. It is about consistency in the relationship
j/avoid christmas cards with just your name on it. That is really bad taste

- Martin Czebotar  - Six Sigma black belt / Quality Manager / ISO Auditor / Polymer Chemist says:

Here are my thoughts on networking.

Approachable
Smile genuinely
Wear a name tag
Two-way communication
Be reliable
Be an Extravert
Be engaging

- Shankar Barua - Managing Trustee at The Academy of Electronic Arts says:

Enjoy Yourself.
Enjoy Everyone else.
Enjoy what's happening.
Drink in moderation.
Don't drink and drive.

- Chuck Radcliff - Recruiter says:

There are not 5 per say. I would sum it up in one simple statement...

"Who do you want to meet? How can you help?"

To expand on this though, it is simple to say just meet and help, but it is more about being open and not questioning others. Let the recipient have the option to say no. I do hold standards even though I consider myself a very aggresive open networker. I have a couple of rules.

1) Do not forward personal recommendations for someone you do not know (at least you can not attest to their skills)

2) Do not forward job requests or recruiter fishing to people in your own company. Your first loyalty should always be to your company.

Also, simply you get out what you put in. Many times I have seen people who have written heartfelt notes that have an air of underhandedness or just read kind of like a double edged sword. Be straight forward in your requests. Honesty will get you further then a smile and BS. Tell me you need this. Don't be afraid of being selfish, but be prepared to pay it back.

Wow... Guess that is 5. Well forget the part above...

- Jacob Paulsen - Regional Director at Agel Enterprises says:

1. Be sincere about your interest in others
2. Be creative in your methods.
3. Become a powerful asset to others. Have something to offer.
4. Utilize Technology such as internet resources.
5. Try something different. A different activity, a different destination, a different club or association.

- Chris Handley - Creative Director says:

1. Build Rapport – People do business with people they know and trust, so get to know people.

2. When they do get around to asking you what you do, be prepared to give a 30-second pitch about how you help your clients solve a specific problem. Rather than tell people I'm a Creative Director for an ad agency, I tell them now I helped a specific client achieve a specific marketing objective. That strikes up more questions from them.

3. Set networking goals. I try to introduce myself to 8 to 12 people.

4. Rate your conversations and follow up by scheduling coffee with those you're interested in getting to know better.

5. Don't sell, they will come to you if they need your help.

- Candice Crowther - Corporate Sales Manager at Wyndham Hotel says:

A true conference center environment creates a networking atmosphere for you so you don't have to. There are Central Break Areas, a lounge with fun activities and games such as Wii and Pool Tables. Breakout rooms are clustered together. Make sure you're looking at an IACC approved conference center.

- James Hayes - Independent Online Media Professional and Writer says:

1 work
2 work
3 work
4 work
5 work

- Zulkifly Jamaludin - Salesman says

From my personal experience .

1) Enough food for your guess
2)Ambience should be comfortable for peoples to mingle
3) "Ice-Breaking" sessions i.e get to know each and everyone in short
4) Token of appreciations
5) Have some game
6) Explain why this networking worth it for them and you
7) Feedback

- Debra Jason - Freelance copywriter & Web marketing consultant at The Write Direction says:

1. Enter the room and take a deep breath. Scan the crowd and see if you're drawn to anyone in particular - he/she would be a good starting point.
2. Be interested in those you talk to and people will find you interesting.
3. Wear a name tag, shake the other person's hand and be sincere. Have business cards readily available should you be asked for one.
4. Look people in the eyes when you talk to them and be personable.
5. Have a 30: commercial inside your head - one that says who you are and what you do in an engaging way without being boring. Not a sales pitch.
6. FOLLOW UP. If you took someone's business card, follow up later on - with a quick e-mail or, better yet, a handwritten note that says "pleasure meeting you" and reiterates a point(s) you discussed when you met.
7. Have fun! Sure it's a business function, but you're there to socialize and explore new connections. Enjoy yourself. If you don't feel you're connecting with someone, gracefully move onto someone else.

- Mrityunjoy Panday - Programmer at Cognizant Technology Solutions says:

1. Listening ... obvious but lot of people forget at the right time.
2. Connect with the Heart first and then with the mind.
3. Always have well defined objectives
4. A person may not have direct relevance with your objective but can become a strategic contact by 1. Being a reference point for credibility check for you, if he/she knows many people of your direct relevance. 2. Giving you firsthand experience in the delicate art of interacting with people.
5. honesty.. improves your credibility.

- Malin Carlberg - CEO Master Mind Group, Business Developer and Process Specialist says:

Great question.What I often do is this:

1.Have a genuine interest in other people - since you never know who is connected to whom and who will have the answers for the evening be very open.
2.Do your homework - if it is possible check people up before going there.This will help you both to know who you are looking for, but also a very good impression when you actually meet in person. Even sending a note before can be an ice breaker if you feel stuck taking the first contact.
3.Go for the winwin solution - 1. everybody is open for winwin aspects no matter if it is problems, publicity or any other matter. 2. anyone can feel when a person has only their own winning in mind on a miles distance
4.Ask - both publicly and face to face.Just jump and get used to it. 1. what and how you ask says more about you than any business card 2.you will be expossed youself and will attract spin off contacts where people come to you instead.
5.Good memory and systems - remember peoples names, interessts, next projects etc and if it is hard set up a system to keep track and be in contact regularly without particulary reason. Keep your promises..!

Have a good networking!

- Blessen Cherian - Executive Team Member,Bobcares says:

Its simple... Be sincere and help others with your suggestion. Do not expect anything from them in return. You will get the value for your help after you establishing yourself as the best approachable person in the particular field of your interest.

- David A. Mills - Art Director Summit Business Media, Conference Division says:

Here are a few tips that have helped me. Nothing fancy; nothing from an award-winning book or anything—just plain old common sense...

1. APPROACHABILITY: Look Inviting (Expression/Demeanor)
Smile for God's sake! Appear important, but not intimidating. Smile as if
you know something no one else knows - it generates interest and
curiosity. Enjoy yourself and never look bored.

2. GREETING: Make A Memorable Entrance
Shake firm and keep eye contact - it's honest and implies sincerity.
Repeat their name after they introduce themselves. This not only helps
your memorization, but it allows others to feel as though you're paying
attention and have a genuine interest in them.

3. Q&A: Asking/Answering Questions
Ask questions that require more than a one word answer, and likewise,
never give a one word answer. Recognize when someone likes to talk
about themselves and exploit that - give them questions you know
they'll love answering.

4. "THE TEASER EXIT": Don't Ride Out A Conversation To It's End
Recognize when a conversation has peaked and politely excuse
yourself before it has the chance to wind down. Nothing kills a
conversation like an over-extended awkward ending. Leave them
wanting more. If they seek you out later to finish the conversation,
welcome them enthusiastically and enjoy the moment.

5. DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS: Remember Everything!
Nothing is more flattering and memorable than someone remembering
the most insignificant details about you. It's a great ego booster and it
shows that you're attentive and that you care.

- bruce colthart - Owner, Bruce Colthart Creative LLC, marketing-driven design consultancy says:

Simply put, make sure you're ready to sacrifice your own needs and instead focus on what other attendees' needs and interests are. Reflect those needs and interests back to them for confirmation. Next learn how you could best represent them to your network; they'll teach you. Then do all you can to be useful and helpful to them, matching their needs and interests to appropriate people in your existing network and urge them to offer help or interesting information. That's how to build a functioning and mutually beneficial network that pays.

- Jennifer Brown - Process and Knowledge Management says:

The top 5 tips to make networking happen?'As

Conference specific networking tips are below. I find there is a difference between making networking "happen" and good networking practices.

Don't expect instant results. Payoff from networking can take weeks, months, even years. Don't bother trying to focus only those connections you can make that will bring immediate benefit, but do try to start the networking before you really need it. More people know the importance of networking, and are less tolerant of aggressive networkers than they used to be.

Pitch the Elevator Pitch. Be able to talk about what you and your company does, but stop trying to make it a sales pitch. Be conversational about it, and allow others to talk as well. It should be conversational, not a speech, or a sales pitch.

You do not own your reputation. It's not about who you know, it's about who knows what about you. More people know your reputation than know you the person; the stronger your reputation, the more people will talk about you, for better and for worse. People will know who you're talking about more quickly when you say "remember guy with bad breath who monopolized the conversation" when compared to the "guy who had a great suggestion for that problem we've been talking about"... but do you really want to be the bad breath guy?

Talk to people you outside your interest. Don't limit your conversations to people you expect to enhance your network and help your career or business,and allow conversations to go "off topic". Some of the most valuable connections you can make are those from casual conversations that meander and have nothing to do with the event. Don't be mercenary. You don't want to be known as a serial networker.

Continually cultivate your network. Stay in touch just to see how people are doing; sometimes you'll find that someone needs your help in a way that can benefit you. The attitude of mutual benefit is good, but when people know you're genuinely interested in helping them, it will seal your reputation as someone worth knowing. If you only maintain contact when you need help, people will be less receptive to helping you in the future. And always follow up after meeting someone, even if you don't expect to cultivate the relationship beyond that. Courtesy is remembered.

Quality vs Quantity. You do not need to know everyone, nor add everyone to your network. While you shouldn't avoid meeting people, you should not be a 'card collector'. Be comfortable talking to different people but do try to be selective when it comes to cultivating your network. Most likely your network can help introduce you to others you need to talk to, so don't try to be everyone's best friend. Or Link.

- Laura Browne - Management & Communication Trainer, Speaker & Author at Get Heard At Work says:

Big picture - think about why you're networking. Now turn it around and ask yourself why would anyone want to network with you. Are you friendly and willing to connect other people or are you just trying to grab business cards?

1) Be an active member - if you want to connect with people, show up more than once so people can get to know you.
2) Volunteer to do some work - I find that helping out at the registration table is a great way to talk to people.
3) Ask about others - ask what is their purpose in attending the networking session.
4) Have a goal for each networking session.
5) Ask for help - know what you need and find out who knows that information.

- Mark Hua - Account Director says:

My views are :

1. Go with the view that I don't know or pretends to know everything
2. Be approachable, sincere and have fun
3. See every one as a potential friend in the waiting
4. Make sure that the meeting/engagement/chat is reciprocated
5. Relax, be yourself and have fun!!

Live with Passion!

- Ravichandra Kshirsagar - Sr. RF Consultant says:

My take,

1. Take genuine interest in others
2. Explore/Learn as much as possible
3. Share
4. Be interesting
5. Always keep in touch

- Mohamed Mehenoun - Technical Support Engineer says:

First of all be a social engineer i.e. you have to be able to approach people and get to know them better...

Then when you know the person just be truly interested in what she/he has to say and try to be supportive most of people just need someone to listen...

Once you get this part done you'll really build a strong relationship with the person on a human level then you'll be able to do business of course you'll have to be able to sell and you'd better have a good product but sometimes social engineering does the difference between you and the other guy who's got the same product but has a robot like approach...

the rest you can pick here and there from the fine answers I've read up till now...

- Laura Lozza  - Regional Director East Africa at Yara International ASA says:

1. Be curious. And genuinely interested in others.
2. Be open (present your self with some details, not only as "profiling" but so that you can make yourself interesting to be contacted, as a way to offer something)
3. Stand ready to help; limit your own requests for help, offer help in exchange if and when you do need to ask for help
4. Don't overcommit. If you travel a lot, have a demanding job and a demanding family, a large network and whatever else, you cannot realistically join-in to networks that demand regular and frequent presence / attendance / responses. Be honest about your limits.
5. Exercise being concise, the larger your network, the less time you have, and chances are the others are in the same situation. I have a hard time staying frequently connected with friends who cannot talk less than an hour at a time and cannot mail less than two pages.

- Robert Godden - Operations Manager at Morton Philips says:

Put aside time every day for networking and diarise it. Slow and steady wins the race!
As far as LinkedIn networking specifically; I send three invitations every day:
The most connected person in my network not directly connected to me
The most connected person in my network in Australia not directly connected to me
The most connected person in my network in Adelaide not directly connected to me
I'm meeting some very interesting people.
Also, if you have an idea, start a LinkedIn group.

about the author

Julius Solaris
Julius Solaris is the editor of EventManagerBlog.com, he is an international speaker, author and consultant.
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