Whilst family, friends and other easily identifiable contacts are a good place to start your networking efforts, sooner or later you will need to extend yourself beyond your familiar surroundings and look to attend relevant meetings and/or events.
In many ways, the type of meeting or event that you choose is not particularly important. If your hobby is old model trains, and someone advertises an 'old model train meeting and exhibition' you are obviously likely to meet lots of people who might become good network contacts. However, this is likely to be the exception rather than the rule.
In most cases, meetings or social gatherings of people will be much more general affairs and ones that can only be broadly 'qualified' for their possible relevance.
Start The Networking Adventure
The trick in networking (if there is one) is to treat all meetings or events as an adventure.
Like any adventure, you may have some fear and trepidation about facing the unexpected, but you should also feel some of the thrill of the challenge and excitement in finding new people with whom you can really connect. By making time in your schedule to attend, you can use early opportunities to watch others networking and to get into the habit of talking to the people you meet.
Don't forget, networking successfully means that we sometimes have to stretch ourselves to the edges of our comfort zones - hard at first but much easier with practice.
Whether it is a formal meeting or event (with one hundred people) or an informal gathering (of only ten or less) being ready or open to network is very important - like the Scout's motto 'Be Prepared'.
Even if you are shy, introverted, nervous, bored, or tired, you just never know when you are going to bump into interesting and useful people.
Part of this process of 'being prepared' is to have crisp information about yourself available so that your communication is short, focused and clear - not totally unlike an elevator pitch. Some of this is provided by a good business card, however, effective networking is rarely achieved by saying 'Hello' and merely handing over a business card - you have also got to give something of yourself as a person.
'So, What Do You Do?'
It pays to think hard about what you could and should communicate in what might be only a few seconds. It is amazing how many people respond to the question 'What do you do?' with 'That's a difficult/interesting question!' or "I'm an engineer/analyst/administrator/co-coordinator/manager!'
Such responses do little to educate the person asking. It is far better to give some pre-thought to this question (even if there are two or three versions of reply you'd like to use) and practise using your answer.
Keep It Short & Simple
Many of the books on networking advocate specific advice such as introductions of '10 words or less' or 'no more than two sentences'. However, although keeping it short is important, it is more critical that you are:
• Clear - use common words, no jargon
• Concise - use short words and sentences
• Personable - use engaging, friendly and warm words
• Interesting - say something different or distinctive
You typically only have about 5 - 10 seconds to cover these four criteria, but this realistically gives you up to twenty words to use.
Finally - Introduce Yourself
Specific introductions will be very much up to the individual style and personality. However, once again, this is an opportunity to stretch yourself to the edge of your comfort zone and present yourself as positively as you can. A simple example that meets all the above criteria might therefore be:
"Hello, my name is Annabelle Jones. I spend my time designing and running interactive booklets on networking."
Note that this has to cover what you do in practical terms and not just your name and job title.
Perhaps a more forthright example might be:
"Hello, my name is Annabelle Jones. I produce TV screen advertisements from script to screen and everything in between the two."
Finally, I must highlight the fact that the warmth of your introduction will determine the outcome of the meeting. Even though you may well be shy and nervous, it is important to make eye contact and smile - it sends out the message that you are confident, relaxed and friendly.
Today's News: Just heard from my friend Lee Salz that his new venture "Business Experts Webinars" will be launching on Monday, so I will have full details here next week.
Tomorrow: We are gearing up for the re-launch of Top Sales Experts, with an expanded team and lots of new features, so much work to do. As ever, wherever you are, have a great w/e and be sure to make it back on Monday - JF
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