I’ve always been a natural extrovert in school and in business. I find it easy to socialise with others and connect with them personally and professionally. When I first embarked on my entrepreneurial journey and left the practice of law, I used to attend as many local networking events as possible. I deemed it important to get out there and connect with other business professionals to build both my brand and network for prospective clients, speaking engagements, and other business opportunities.
I realise that networking is not easy or simple for everyone. There are some who fear being in large crowds of people they do not know at networking events and being forced to strike up a conversation with someone they have little synergy with. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you can build solid networking skills through these 3 simple steps:
Attend as Many Networking Events as Possible
I am sure you have heard many say, “You need to put yourself out there if you want to meet the right person.” Networking is a lot like dating. In order to find a date, you need to put yourself out there in the limelight, and practice makes perfect.
First, find out where the local networking events are in your community. A great place to start is your local chamber of commerce and other leadership organisations that are industry-specific. Many groups will offer the first event free to all guests. Some events may be as high £180 for a lunch. Either way, if you meet your next business contact or potential boss, suddenly that fee becomes pennies and the reward outweighs the risk. But don’t forget to dress professional to the networking event. Treat it like a series of mini interviews.
Bring Business Cards & Don’t Forget to Take Business Cards from Others
Every person you meet is an opportunity. A key step to networking is having your own professional image and brand. Don’t make the mistake of showing up to a networking event without a stack of professional business cards.
Make sure the business card has your name, professional title (i.e. Managing Director) or industry (i.e. Finance), phone number, email (keep it professional), and Linkedin URL. Before you put your Linkedin URL on your new personal business card, ensure that you have a customised URL.
When you go to networking events, take a business card from each person you meet and give them your business card. Easy and done, right? Not so fast.
Following-up is the most important part of networking. Always follow-up with each person you meet. Get on their contact list. Tell them you hope to see them at the next event (which may open the door to them inviting you to an event you didn’t know about!). Invite them to have lunch or coffee the next week. Being consistent and committed is key.
Connect on Linkedin & Beyond
If you are going to attend networking events and build connections on Linkedin with attendees from the events (which of course I highly recommend), make sure your Linkedin profile is fully optimised with a powerful headline, compelling summary, and details of your experience. It’s important that the image you put out at the networking events matches your digital footprint — i.e. your personal brand aligns. You never know where this connection may lead.
Develop a rapport with other professionals and connect on a greater level through Linkedin. Share and comment on each other’s content. Engage with one another beyond just being a connection. Join groups they are members of and possibly connect with their connections.