Post by Joan Lee, BizInc Intern
Last week, I posted four tips that help all of us socially awkward people network. If you read it, you’ve armed yourself with the best conversational salvos you can muster, dropkicked your negative ideas of networking into a dump somewhere, and can now more confidently declare yourself to be an invaluable asset to a company or an investor.
But if you truly want to network well, don’t forget to do the following four things:
4. Remember the Dale Carnegie Basics
When Dale Carnegie wrote the definitive guide to networking and interacting with people more than half a century ago, he laid down the following five commandments:
A) Smile. It’s pretty self-explanatory.
B) Listen. People love talking about themselves, and if you’re not a big fan of talking in the first place, this is an easy way to get a good conversation going. Plus it gives off a great impression of yourself!
C) Ask a question. This goes hand-in-hand with Listening, but it also comes in handy when you’ve just joined a group mid-conversation. Once you’ve gotten the gist of what they’re talking about, ask a relevant question. You’ll have your “in” to truly join the group, and feel less awkward.
D) Use business cards. Technology may have now evolved to the point where you can swap contact information on phones, but it’s still more cumbersome to hammer in everything when you could just hand over a slip of paper with the information.
E) Say and remember their name. There’s no sweeter sound to a person than the sound of their own name, and it helps build a closer connection.
Never forget these commandments.
3. Be Yourself!
And never forget yourself either. There’s nothing wrong with being yourself at a networking event! Humble, shy, and/or quirky can be endearing, and people would always prefer being around someone who’s authentic rather than a “schmoozer”. Never be a “schmoozer”: their approach to networking is to help themselves only, when networking is also about helping others!
2. Network Outside of Networking Events
Networking events aren’t the only place to network. Especially for people who find themselves feeling awkward at the formality of it all, or want to try something with less face-to-face time – there are easier ways to do things.
First and foremost: tap into your alumni network! That’s one of the main reasons why it exists. Feel free to contact anyone who you think could help you – however, don’t expect to instantly find millions of people ready and willing to help you out. There’s a lot of work required, and you’ll probably have to contact 20 to 30 people before you get a response, maybe even 100 before you find someone who wants to build a business relationship with you. But it’s definitely well worth the time you put in. You’ll also find that alumni networks of organizations with a strong social identity like frats or professional student development organizations like AIESEC will generally tend to have alumni who are more willing to help out.
On that note, use your passions. No matter how hard you find it to talk with people, you’ll always be able to get talking with someone who shares a passion with you. So go join clubs or groups you’re interested in. After you meet someone there and have thoroughly gone over the hyperbolic structures of crochet, you’ll both be comfortable chatting with each other. At that point, it’d be pretty easy to bring up work and forge a business relationship AND a friendship! Because you never know, the sleepy guy with a mustache you sit next to at Toastmaster’s could be able to help you with exactly what you need to reach your business goals.
1. FOLLOW UP!!
So you worked hard, pulled yourself together, and managed to talk with tons of really helpful people. Great job, you did it, you’ve reached your goals—NOPE! NONE of it means anything unless you FOLLOW UP. You met someone who’s willing to lend a hand with designing your website? Great, now FOLLOW UP and email them to arrange a time to discuss specifics. You met someone who’s interested in mentoring you? Great, now FOLLOW UP and book a coffee meeting with them. No follow up means nothing happens!
Also follow up and maintain your business relationships in general. Send them holiday cards, or wish them happy birthday. Start an email discussion with them every now and then, pointing out the new advances in that mutual passion of yours. Make sure you don’t let your networking efforts go to waste!
Now that you’ve read all the tips I have to give you, go out there and make some business magic happen!