Professional Networking Tips And Tricks From A Master Networker

group of people networkingAs a veteran networker, I can tell you that good networking doesn’t happen by chance. Showing up at an event and exchanging a few business cards is a piece of cake, but let’s be honest – that’s NOT networking. The objective is to build valuable relationships in order to increase your business, enhance your knowledge, and/or serve the community. And THAT, my friends, takes a plan, an attitude, and hard work. If you’re new to networking or looking to up your game, grab your business cards and put these tips and tricks into practice.

The 8 “P’s” of Networking

1. Prepare

Many business professionals make the mistake of looking for the right connection in the wrong room. Target key groups and be strategic. Research specific events and the types of professionals likely to attend. Better yet, request a list of attendees in advance and decide who you’d like to meet.

2. Pitch

Develop a short (10-30 seconds) pitch that clearly communicates what you do and why you do it. I know this is hard, but first impressions really do matter – so it’s worth investing the time and effort to make it memorable.

3. (Be) Punctual

Arrive at the meeting early and plan to stay late. That’s typically when the networking happens.

4. Perform

Before you enter the room, take a deep breath, relax, and smile. Approaching people who are standing alone is easier than breaking into a group. Shake hands (if you’re comfortable) and introduce yourself. If you run into people you know, don’t hesitate to connect them with like-mined new contacts.

5. Pay Attention

A networking event is not the place for shameless self-promotion – it’s a time to ask questions of those you’re networking with. Get them talking, find out what they are struggling with (or celebrating), and see what services or support you can provide.

6. Part Politely

Keep conversations short, even if the connection is worth pursuing. Ask to exchange cards, politely excuse yourself, and move on. Reasons to wrap up can include getting something to eat, using the restroom, or wanting to catch someone before they leave.

7. (Make it) Personal

Networking is about building relationships – so make it personal. Write a note thanking those you met for their time. Invite them to connect on LinkedIn. Schedule a virtual or in-person coffee date to get to know them better. Call or email now and then just to connect and catch up – with no “ask” or agenda.

8. Pay it Forward

If you promised to send information or make an introduction, follow through. If you were given a lead, take action and update your contact. Share an article, recommend a website, or invite the person to join you at another event. Let them know you value the the opportunity to develop a mutually rewarding professional relationship.

Now that you are armed with these tips, go out and network and build those important professional relationships!