Networking is an essential enabler within business today. But the value of networking lies in finding and building meaningful connections, not in collecting a stack of business cards that rarely get viewed after they get filed.
Here are some pointers for more meaningful networking at events. Some of them are taken from TED speaker Susan Cain in her post on LinkedIn ‘Learn to love networking.’
- Collect kindred spirits.
Networking is about finding people you sincerely want to connect with. You should share a genuine interest, value or have some common ground between you that is about more than cogs in a machine. We can describe these people as kindred spirits. So how do we do that?
- Prepare a few talking points and engage.
If you find networking challenging, consider preparing a few talking points that assist you to open a conversation with someone new. Examples are experiences of visiting the city you are in, or a recent experience at a similar event. You could note something about a speaker at the event with an insight that’s come to mind or something new you picked up. Once conversation has started to flow, you should feel a little more at ease. You might also find that others join your conversation too. If they do, welcome them into what you’re talking about.
- Focus on being sincere.
What are you doing in the world? How does this relate to your larger life path? If you can communicate a small part of your purpose, about how things fit together and make sense, that almost immediately surpasses the ‘how can I help you’, or ‘how can you help me’ conversation we’re being taught at networking seminars. Think about what you are doing and why, and connect that with your reason for being at an event. People you talk to will easily get a sense of it. They’ll feel it, sincerely.
- Set a quota for your event.
Get strategic about the event you’re attending. Who will be there? Who would you like to talk to? Earmark a few people and make sure you get to talk to those people. Set a quota for how many people you’d like to connect with and do it well. ‘Now you can go back to your hotel room and watch a movie in your pyjamas’ says Cain amusingly in her article.
- Take offline online
There are advantages to taking your offline connection online. By online we mean more than sending a follow up email. LinkedIn is a social networking tool that allows you to connect with others as well as engage with them over time in a way that is meaningful. Most of us are not leveraging the full value of this tool. We’ll post a dedicated blog on LinkedIn so that you extend the value of face-to-face networking. That’s coming soon.
Do you have more tips to share on networking?