I have been networking for the past five years. Two of those years, I did it professionally, networking for other companies. I’ve had my fair share of both good and bad experiences out there. Many people with good intentions, just don’t seem to know “how” to network. I want to share with you my advice on the right (and wrong) way of networking.
DO say your full name when you meet someone new. Whenever I am introduced to someone I always say, Hello, I’m Patricia Bokowski. Not, Hi, I’m Patti. There are a million Patti’s out there, only one of me. You want to be memorable! And add in a hearty handshake and big smile while you do it.
DO NOT push your business card in every person’s face you meet! Personally, if someone does this to me, I don’t care what product/service they are offering, I am immediately put off and I don’t even want to speak with them. Instead, when you meet someone new, ask THEM their name, their business, what they’re about. People love to talk about themselves and it is one of the surest ways to get people to open up about themselves.
DO invite someone out for coffee as a follow up to your initial meeting. I usually ask someone that I feel I clicked with or that I’ve perhaps met before. A simple e-mail saying “It was great meeting you the other day at _______, I’d love to follow-up and meet for a cup of coffee”. Note, it doesn’t have to be someone in your industry to click. I’ve met plenty of people who weren’t in my field (fashion), and have kept them as great contacts and resources.
DO NOT count business cards. If you walk into a networking event and there are say, thirty people there, do not feel you have to meet all thirty. Instead, be organic. Just go around the room, introduce yourself and see where the conversation takes you. If you’re talking to someone and it’s just not flowing, simply move-on, politely of course!
DO make connections. The whole point of networking is making connections, not selling! I’ve been networking for over five years now and I have a whole collection of connections from all different fields. Many of these connections have referred me to people who became my client (referrals are a business owners dream).
Lastly, have fun. Networking is about meeting new people and building relationships!