You are networking when you strike up a conversation with the person next to you in line, introduce yourself to other parents at your child’s school, happy hour, meet a friend of a friend, fitness/health clubs, fraternity/sorority meetings, catch up with a former co-worker, sitting next to someone at a Diamondbacks baseball game, non-networking events/meetings, picnics, places where you share a common cause, industry conferences, your alumni association, service organizations, or stop to chat with your neighbor.
The best way to make a favorable impression is to find a commonality with the person you’re talking to. The more personable your conversation, the better chance you have of easing into a later conversation about how to help each other business-wise. Look for common interests. When two strangers strike up a conversation, there is always a subtle jostling for position. Resist that urge. Go where the conversation leads.
Be an excellent listener. Put those skills to use. When you strike up a conversation, don’t attempt to launch into an awkward pitch for your business. Discover what others need and go about helping them. If they have a problem, offer to tell them what you would do in their situation and give your ideas away. The more people you meet and talk with, the larger your network and the greater the odds of finding the best customers, partners, employers or employees.
“If someone is making you uncomfortable for any reason – they’re talking way too much about themselves, engaging in over-the-top boasting, or seem sketchy in some way – then listen to your instinct and move along to networking with someone who feels more simpatico. Life’s too short to waste time on people you don’t enjoy.” ~ Kathy Caprino
Opportunities for business networking are everywhere! The professional networker knows this and takes every advantage to network as in the examples above. Just relax. Don’t try to impress. Tell stories and be yourself. Networking is the art and science of building professional relationships, but few of us are naturals at it. It takes practice. Networking is a skill. Skills take time and patience to develop.
The average networker only networks when they know they have a networking meeting to go to and most are scrambling to come up with a business referral for other networkers on the way to the meeting. These groups can provide you with a shoebox full of business cards and no contacts if you’re not careful. Professionals plan ahead. Others often don’t like to network but think it’s something that they need to do to be successful. Few can actually tell you that they have done any research or attended any networking seminars to learn how to do it correctly.
While average networkers resist being held to an ill-fitting standard, professionals today do indeed need to find a way to muster the energy and courage to network and build a powerful support community. It’s been said that the professional networker can find what they need in their network of support in 3 to 5 phone calls. That’s what I call, “connected!”
If you only think of networking as going to a networking group or event, perhaps it’s time for you to get your creative juices going and actually plan to put networking at the very top of your list of things to do everyday! Remembering to networking can be as easy as posting reminders in your office, on your bathroom mirror, in your car or anyplace that can serve as a reminder.
While you are thinking about it… take a few Post-it® notes and write the word “NETWORK” in big capital letters and post reminders everywhere right now. Even though I network virtually all the time, it’s helpful for me to post occasional reminders that helps keep me focused and keeps business networking at the forefront.
So… Where are the best places to invest your time business networking? Everywhere and all the time!
Copyright © 2015 – Larry James. Adapted from Larry’s latest book, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Networking Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. Something NEW about Networking is posted on this Networking BLOG every 4th day! Visit Larry’s Networking Website at: “Networking HQ!”
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