Although networking is one of the most basic of all human instincts, (even the cavemen did it), it can still be a challenge for some individuals.
Research continues to prove that, in a room full of strangers, those who are perceived as the strongest and most confident will draw more people to them than those who are perceived as weaker and less confident.
In the spirit of Darwin’s Natural Selection, let’s say that his “Survival of the Fittest” theory is just as relevant in a post-recession boardroom as it was in a prehistoric cave.
In other words, people instinctively eliminate weakness.
Bottom Line: to form a powerful network, you must first become a powerful networker.
Here are my top ten tips on how to do just that and sharpen your networking skills:
1. Think of life as your networking event.
Stop waiting for a 2-hour cocktail party to meet people. Good conversation is the best networking and you never know where opportunities lie.
2. Listen more than you speak.
Being an active listener is the hallmark of a distinctive leader. It is important to practice listening and follow up by asking intelligent questions when networking. Many people instinctively ramble on about themselves and that is ok, just make sure you are not the one rambling.
3. Know your own pitch.
Be able to explain what it is that do you do in 5 sentences or less. If you can’t explain it, no one else is going to be able to understand it, much less buy into it.
4. Don’t oversell yourself.
There is nothing worse than the feeling of someone trying to sell you. Make sure you don’t lead with your pitch and don’t force an introduction if it isn’t organically there. Use networking as the time to make the connection and then schedule a future meeting where you can discuss business in a more private setting.
5. Be your brand.
Perception is reality. People commonly make the mistake of thinking that their brand is whatever they say it is. In reality, your brand is what people perceive it to be and what their experience has been with it and/or you. Be consistent and be thoughtful to consider your brand with every move that you make.
6. Don’t replace live networking with social media networking.
Politicians for decades have been shaking hands and kissing babies across their respective voter regions. They have yet to convert to campaigning via Skype. That is not because they so enjoy traveling, it is because study after study has proven that co engagement strategy yields better results than the traditional face-to-face introduction.
7. Stay up on current events.
Make sure that you have an understanding of what is happening in the world. It is very one dimensional when a person only knows his or her own business. Read local, national and international news to not only expand your own knowledge, but to find common ground in conversation with new people.
8. Get back to basics.
Stand up straight. Don’t chew gum. Don’t interrupt someone who is speaking. Don’t drink too much (especially not red wine). Maintain eye contact.
9. Be selective when handing out business cards.
I only give my cards to people who ask for them because I find that people who intend on using my information will ask me for it. Not the other way around.
10. Don’t forget the follow up.
The biggest mistake made by all networkers is poor follow up. It is easy to let the cards pile up on your desk and surely one day you’ll, “get around to it.” Try to think about being a “doer” rather than just a talker. Other people will see you are a go-getter and want you on their team too.