Let’s be honest – networking is an integral part of all industries – corporate connections, entrepreneurship and the nonprofit ecosystem all rely on building relationships. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to effective networking. I love a room full of (mostly) strangers, I also love to take a client or an intern with me and act as their wingman. However, I sometimes struggle with a quick follow-up unless I have a real reason to. (I’m working on this!)
So my two biggest networking tips for my clients are:
- Know what you want out of the event and don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Pick one type of connection or one thing you want to accomplish. Be specific and be bold in your quest for that one thing. Determine your goal before you walk in the door and ask someone to help you make that connection. (If you are nervous to make your own ask – bring someone with you and be each other’s wingman.) Example: I have a client who has an invention. He has created a full business plan, he has his patent, and he has a rustic metal prototype of the product. He needs a plastic prototype made. I invited him to attend the last Tercer Jueves for the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce that took place at Armando’s Mexican Restaurant in Mexicantown because I knew that the ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) from most of the automotive companies were invited = lots of engineers with potential access to 3D Printers. I asked the hosts to help me make this connection and walked the room introducing him to engineers. We found two that said they had access to a 3D Printer and would try to help. (Cards were exchanged, fingers crossed!)
- Ask one or two open-ended questions. Pay close attention to what other people are saying and see how you can help them with whatever they need. I am frequently so bold as to ask: “What do you hope to get from today’s networking event? or Who do you want to meet tonight?” If you are able to do a quick introduction at the event itself – try to do so even if they didn’t ask. Examples of industry specific introductions: introduce a nonprofit leader to a potential funder, introduce a realtor to a mortgage broker or someone who mentions moving/relocating, introduce someone who is job hunting to a staffing agent or a manager in their field.
So there are my secrets for being a professional “connector”. It’s not rocket science, it’s really about knowing what you want and listening to see if you can help others get what they want. Win-Win!
If you are looking for more tips and a “Shaking-Hands-On” Workshop attend this Ted-X style interactive workshop at the Farmington Chamber on May 29th at 4:30pm or join us for the BRIDGE Bilingual Networking Event and Business Expo.