My colleagues and I were deciding what time to head out to a luncheon workshop that includes networking. I opted to arrive early, and it had nothing to do with punctuality or finding a parking space.
As an introvert, it’s easier for me to be among the first to arrive at a networking event. That way, I can spot others arriving and easily approach them. We connect and have a conversation. It’s much more challenging for me to wade into a large group and network.
Here are a few tips for successful networking:
As I shared above, arrive early.
Stand out. Have your elevator speech ready, be professional, and be memorable. For years, when people asked what I did, I said that my job was like being an air traffic controller. I then explained what I meant. In my current job, I like to wear a lapel pin of our mascot, which always leads to conversation.
Listen more than you talk. If you ask open-ended questions, and listen to the answers, you will learn about the person, and they are more likely to remember you because you listened. Too often, we ask a question, and instead of listening, we are thinking about our next question to ask or what we are going to share with the person.
Aim for quality, not quantity. When I first started my career, I was all about collecting business cards. Those cards do me no good, though, if I can’t remember whose card it is or in what context I met the person. If I’m at a lunch event, I may only leave with one card. At a conference, I may leave with seven or eight. I make it a point to note something I learned about the person on the back of their card.
Follow-up. One of the reasons, I write notes on a person’s business card is because I like to follow up with the person within a month of our meeting. I try to share information that I think may be of value to them, further cementing our networking opportunity.