Networking is about building relationships not getting business cards. For some folks it is the most nerve-wrecking thing to do for others it just comes naturally – regardless of where you fall in the spectrum leverage the following tips will help you elevate your networking skills.
Whether you’re trying to make new friends, you’re at an event or trying to connect with an executive in person or virtually these seven tips will help you build and deepen that relationship.
1. Repeat their name. There are three benefits to repeating someone’s name, one is it shows that you were actively listening, two it will help you remember their name and lastly, it will make them feel acknowledge, seen and respected and that’s a great place to start a relationship. So, as you’re asking them questions, when you say goodbye and when you reconnect with them, say their name. Pro tip: Make sure you’re pronouncing their name right.
2. Active listening is an art. Put your thoughts aside and be fully present in the conversation. Don’t interrupt, judge, jump to conclusions, start planning what to say next or impose your opinions or solutions. Instead stay focused, lean in, nod, make eye contact and make brief verbal/non-verbal affirmations such as “I see” and nodding. Once they’re done, ask follow up questions, make complementary points or paraphrase to confirm you got the main point and, most importantly, let the conversation flow naturally.
3. Ask questions. Having questions is great, it always helps to come in with questions, ask the person for their advice especially if they’ve been/seen in similar situations. It helps keep the conversation going especially the first few times you meet where there can be some awkward silence. Pro tip: Ask them about their experiences and thoughts.
4. Eye contact and open body language. Between 70-93% of all communication is non-verbal. Eye contact and posture are great indicators of someone’s level of attention and focus. According to the a study conducted by Aberdeen University in Scotland, coupling your winning smile with holding someone’s gaze has been proven to create attraction – meaning the person is more likely to like you. Whereas, keeping your frame open (i.e. not crossing your hands/ pointing your feet towards them) and leaning in has been associated with being perceived as receptive, in alignment and having positive attitude.
5. Take notes. Taking notes increases your ability to retain and act on information – while several new studies suggest hand-written notes are best virtual notes are also helpful. Reviewing your notes within 24 hours increases your retention by 70%. If you’re not a great multi-tasker, take notes after your meeting or in short-hand to fill in after the meeting. This will aid you with following up and keeping yourself accountable on any recommended actions/tips noted during your conversation.
6. Follow through & follow up. Relationships are ongoing, not just one-time transactional conversations. Keep the conversation going in the interim, whether it’s emailing an interesting article on a topic you discussed/that is of interest to them or giving them an update and thanks on some advice you took. You don’t need to wait until your next catch up to say hello, just keep in mind the person’s preferred communication channel, is it via LinkedIn, email, text or meeting. If it is a meeting, follow up closer to the next scheduled meeting
7. Set up some touchpoints. If the conversation goes well ask them if it’s okay to perhaps continue the conversation, maybe in a month, every two months or quarterly. It gives you a regular cadence to reconnect. Some people might say no, or say let’s see how it goes and that’s okay but it doesn’t hurt to ask – the worst they can say is “no.” And that’s okay, whether they’ve taken a new role, have some family things they need to settle, etc. – don’t take it personally. If you don’t think there’s chemistry, don’t force the relationship either, it’s not fair to you or them – at the end, relationships are meant to be mutually beneficial.