10 Tips for successful networking
Now let’s just be clear, I am not an expert on networking. I am not very good at networking. I am however, a business woman who tried to build a successful business for the past 17 years. So, these tips might seem obvious to you, but in all fairness, they are the result of what I have seen, encountered, and dealt with in all those years.
1. Have your business card with you at ALL times.
Imagine this scenario. I am attending a big networking conference, which goes over 3 days. There are between 700-800 participants. One morning I join another lady for breakfast, we chat, we find out that we have very similar interest, even that my area of expertise might benefit her work and her team. Now, this would be the time to exchange business cards. But unfortunately, she had left hers in her hotel room. This can be a way of diplomatically say ‘I am not interested in connecting.’, but if that wasn’t the case, not only did it look unprofessional, we missed an opportunity to mutually benefit from each other.
2. Have a unique business card
In the cooperate world the business card design is very often given. But if you are an entrepreneur, you want to stand out with your card. Choose maybe an unconventional size, format, or colour. I have for example a number of different cards, all 12×17 cm and I let the person blindly choose her/his card. On its front are collages I made and on its back, I have obviously my contact details and a wordle. I keep track of who picked which card in my Conference Book.
3. Get personal
Talking about where you work and what you do is great but doesn’t help to remember you, to make you unique. So, talk about something that is unique to you. Where did you send your last holiday? Any exiting unusual hobbies? Any children? What do they do, what do they like? What are the challenges you are facing at work? What is your dream? Or find a great interesting way of describing your job. I, for example, call myself a dreamcatcher…
4. More Listening Less Talking
We all want to tell our story. We all want to share our experience. But because we all want to do that, we rather talk than listen. It makes a hug difference, when you use your valuable time to listen to the other person calmly rather than hoping desperately they let you talk. You learn so much more about the other person that way. Quality of interactions goes over quantity.
5. Conference Book
With the Win Conference Book we are holding an amazing tool in our hands. Not only does it help us to find our way around but it has the profile of every participant. So, I make sure that I am adding all the personal information to the participants description, because one thing is for sure, you won’t remember who you talked to and what they said at the end of the day or even worse at the end of the whole conference. I keep track of it straight after meeting someone.
6. More Conference Book
One other practical idea is to bring some colourful page markers with you. I always write the first name of the person I just met on it and stick them at the place of their Participant Profile. That way, I find the Helen, I had met and talked to, much faster and I never have to remember their last names.
7. Participant Profile
What impression do you think you are giving, when your personal profile is missing a photo and/or the short cv? Couldn’t be bothered. Too busy? Technically inexperienced? None of those are flattering. If given the change to present yourself, make the most of it. Choose a photo wisely, for example, it’s great to use a holiday shot from the beach, but if I can’t see your face because it is so small and hidden by some sunglasses or if the photo has a far too low resolution to be of good quality, then think again. See your profile as an application.
8. Back home – taking the next step
Back in your office solidify those made connections. If you connect on LinkedIn, Xing, fb or any other social media, refrain from the standard sentence ‘I’d like to connect’. Pull out your Conference Book and make the request personal using some of the information I have learned from your conversations, or in my case for example a reference to the collage the participant picked.
9. Be honest
How many times have you experienced that you had met someone, thought there was a business opportunity and then after repeatedly trying to meet or have something concrete, something specific, realised that there was never a real interest in doing that from the other person? If you have never experienced that, you can call yourself lucky. I have. So here is my truth. If you are not interested in connecting, in keeping in touch, show me the curtesy of being honest. I perfectly well understand that when we go to a networking event the cooperative world has different interests than the entrepreneurial world. Acknowledging that is honest and helps to have a better ROI for these events.
10. Offer help
My last blogs I ended by saying: “Tell me your dream and let us find out what I can do for your dream to come true. How can I be of service to you?” – as a question while networking and connecting. I have been to too many events where it was all about being seen and spreading as many business cards as possible. Usually nothing comes of that. But if I have the attitude of wanting to be of service to the other person, to help them to expand their business, to achieve their dreams, I am convinced that this will ultimately also benefit me and my dreams and it should and could be the way we woman LEAN IN, that is the way for us to break through the glass ceiling, that is the way to make this world a better place. We keep complaining about men who stop us from being successful. You know what, we do that to each other already. I am so hungry for a community of mutual respect, interest in each other, and openness to cooperation without the fear of competition. Wouldn’t it be great to grow together, to learn together, to inspire and support each other, so show each other our unapologetic self! Woman to Woman. Soul to Soul.