My first experience of networking was going to an event with a stack of business cards. I was told that the purpose is to meet as many people as possible and exchange business cards. The business card is the currency exchanged while you make some small talk. On the day of the event, I made sure that I brought my currency (the stack of business cards). I entered the room and started surveying the attendees. It was a very stressful process. At the end of the event, I got a stack. That night I sat down and emailed each of the people I met to thank them for their time. While some responded, others just ignored my email.
Some people are expert in working the room, while other people feel that the process is overwhelming. It can make networking not working. Most people go to networking events to sell, look for referrals, look for new opportunities or job prospects. A survey conducted by Linkedin in 2017, concluded that 80% of the people surveyed considered networking to be important to career success. 61% of the professionals agreed that regular interaction with people in your network can lead to a possible job opportunities.
In my experience, focusing on quality is more important than quantity. Aim to have a few meaningful conversations rather than collect many business cards. The next time you find yourself at a networking event I suggest you do the following:
- Smile and extend your hand to shake the other’s person hand.
- Relax and focus on listening before speaking.
- Don’t memorize your opening line.
- Find common ground by asking what they do or the industry they are in.
- Focus on a few people and don’t work the room.
- Be sincere and try to remember details of the conversation.
- After the networking event, send a thank you note and reiterate some of the topics you’ve discussed. You’ll be remembered for paying attention.
- Stay in touch and do a check in from time to time.
As Lewis Howes indicated, “Effective networking isn’t a result of luck – it requires hard work and persistence.” Be intentional when making a connection. As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel’. By focusing on others, we can do a better job connecting. We can aim to help, thereby creating a meaningful relationship in the long run. Always keep your network active, focus on adding value to your network.