24 May 2011

Networking Nouse

Having a great kitbag of skills is a great start to making an impact in the business world.  But the ability to make an entrance and stand out from the crowd is critical to differentiate yourself.   Particularly when you are networking.

Here's how to network your way to great connections:  

·         Set your goal:  Determine your agenda for attending: Why are you there and what do you hope to gain?  Are you looking to reconnect with business associates, meet new people, be a role model for employees, fulfil a commitment, enhance your career opportunities, have fun, enjoy the entertainment or learn new information?   

·         Prepare a compelling 10-second personal overview: Don't just say who you are and where you’re from.  Have an interesting tagline that peaks people’s interest and attention.  For example, I might give my name and company and say ‘I help people get better results in their personal and professional lives’, which invites questions and conversation. 

·         Practice your openings:  Prepare how you will greet people. This way, you can feel comfortable meeting new people, rather than looking for a hole in the floor to swallow you up.   The simplest way to introduce yourself is to simply smile and say ‘Hello’.  

·         Mingle:  Aim to meet new people.  You can talk to people you know another time. And aim to truly connect and engage with that person. You don't want to be known as the person who's always scanning the room looking for the next person to talk to.  When you're ready to move on, simply say ‘Please excuse me, I need to mingle’.  You might also add ‘I’ve enjoyed our conversation. It’s been a pleasure meeting and talking with you’.

·         Introduce yourself:   When you meet someone you have met before only occasionally, always re-state your name just in case they’ve forgotten it.  For example, say something like “Hello Bob, it’s Sharon Kaibel, I met you last year at the Corporate Cup.  It’s good to see you again.”

·      Carry business cards:  Carry your cards in a holder so they are not dirty or dog-eared.  Record any relevant information about the person on the back of their card (out of sight) for future reference.   Then don’t forget to add your new contacts to your database so you can catch up with them at the appropriate time.

·      Follow up:  Send a personal note or email to those you met, thanking them and mentioning that you enjoyed meeting them.  You can always keep several stamped envelopes and stationery handy.  Make sure your note is well written and personal.  

·      Watch what you eat and drink:  Avoid the lolly shop syndrome and moderate your intake.  Over-indulgence is a sure way to damage your image and your reputation.  Hold drinks with your left hand, leaving your right hand dry and free for introductory handshakes.  And use manners when eating.  You don’t want to be the person others steer clear of because you’re not shy about talking with your mouth full.
Your social savvy may just help to unlock doors that might never have otherwise opened.