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27 Ways to Network Effectively
So many out of job uncles like to claim themselves to be "networking-guru", showing up at networking events and behave like an idiot. I am really sorry to use the word but not because you have read some books, attended some workshop, or worse - in BNI and thought yourself to be a networking master. I am compiled a list of networking tips to help you not look like a fool:

1. Find the right events - Face-to-face interaction is still key in business, but social media offers avenues to find new events through your friends and local venues.

2. Arrive prepared - Be as organised and methodical with networking as you would with any other endeavour for your business. The right connections will accelerate your company’s growth and encourage others to seek you out for business opportunities. Create a long-term plan and get a clear picture of people you have done business with in the past and those you would like to work with in the future. Ivan Misner, chief visionary officer of BNI, stresses the importance of having a networking strategy. By studying how you've found clients in the past, you can better identify where you need to look for new connections in the future. When you have an upcoming event, do some research ahead of time. Look at previous events by the same host or organization to see what they have to offer. Check to see if a guest or sponsors list is available. Then, see if you share common connections with participants and request an introduction. If a particular company will be well represented at the event, think about brushing up on its latest dealings. However, avoid writing yourself a monotonous script. You are there to discover a mutually beneficial relationship, not force one.

3. Actively understand other's needs - Once you enter the event, maintain an approachable demeanour. It is likely that everyone is experiencing the same anxiety as you. Being relaxed, or giving the impression that you are, will be contagious to others and make them more comfortable talking to you. Take the initiative to strike up a few conversations or join group discussions instead of waiting for others to come to you. Simply introduce yourself or try a casual question to start things off: “How are you liking the event?” or “What do you do?” You can practice an introduction, but allow for a natural flow in the discussion. Aaron Carrano, program manager at Google, identified three types of needs customers have that you can look for while networking. These include latent needs; needs which customers aren’t aware of yet; direct needs, which customers inform you of; and assumed needs, which you can deduce. By listening carefully, you can align what customers need, with what you offer. At this point you may present a more targeted pitch. When you do exchange contact information and business cards, quickly jot down notes about what you spoke about to help with memory recall later. Always appreciate every connection you make. While there may not be an opportunity to help one other out immediately, you will want to leave room for serendipity. Five years down the road, a random person you met at an event may become a valued friend or just the contact you’re looking for.

4. Stick around for the aftermath  - As the event comes to a close, remember that you do not necessarily need to part ways, especially if things are going well. If there is an after party, gather a few folks and go there together. If there is a lunch session, ask permission to join someone’s table. If there is nothing planned, take action and invite people to continue the conversation over dinner or drinks. Later that evening, connect with the people you have just met on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. That way, you'll have multiple channels in which you can communicate and get updates about what they are doing. Then, create a dossier about the contacts you've made, including important information about what you can offer one other.

5. Start Small - If the idea of approaching people you don't know intimidates you, begin your networking efforts by seeking out familiar faces, such as relatives and friends. "You can do a significant amount of valuable networking without ever having to make a cold call," says Lynne Sarikas, the director of Northeastern University's MBA Career Center. "Starting with a known [contact] instead of an unknown demystifies the [networking] process and helps get a shy person over the hurdle." A series of successful conversations will make you more confident in the process, Sarikas adds. A logical next step after talking with friends and family is to pursue individuals who graduated from your college. Your alumni network can be a gold mine of connections, says Sarikas. It exists for the purpose of networking, so contacting an alum out of the blue shouldn't feel like a cold call. After all, they joined the network to make and take such calls.

6. Stop Apologising - Introverts and inexperienced networkers often apologise when asking for an individual's help because they see networking as an imposition, not as an exercise in relationship building, says Sarikas. "They feel like they're asking someone to do them a favour. They don't think they're worth someone else's time so they're apologising for it," she says. Apologising merely demonstrates your lack of professionalism and confidence. It's also annoying and juvenile. You don't have to apologise for asking for help. You don't have to apologise for wanting to learn more about the individual with whom you're networking. One day you may be able to help her out.

7. Tap into Your Primal Instincts - "Humans are hard-wired as communal, tribal animals, so the shy person isn't shy by nature," says Ferrazzi. "They are shy by design. Something happened to them to make them want to recoil." Sometimes, when an introvert hears that he's not inherently a loner, that humans are innately social creatures, the realisation helps him emerge from his shell of shyness, he says. The Wisdom of Dale Carnegie in Five Bullet Points Dale Carnegie literally wrote the book on networking in 1936. How to Win Friends and Influence People demystified the process of making friends out of strangers and inspired legions of business coaches to carry on Carnegie's message. Peter Handal, the chairman, CEO and president of Dale Carnegie & Associates, shared some of Carnegie's rules for meeting new people with
  • Smile: "This is such a simple, basic rule, yet people just don't think about it," says Handal. They're so focused on needing to network at a conference that they don't realise they're walking around with a scowl on their face. Scowling, serious, expressions are forbidding, says Handal. People are more likely to warm up to someone who says good morning with a broad smile than they are to someone with a dour countenance.
  • Ask a question: Joining a group engaged in conversation can be awkward. The best way to do so is to pose a question to the group after getting the gist of the conversation, says Handal. "You build your credibility by asking a question, and for a shy person, that's a much easier way to engage than by barging in with an opinion," he says.
  • Listen: One of the most profound points Carnegie made in How to Win Friends was that people love to talk about themselves. If you can get people to discuss their experiences and opinions—and listen with sincere interest—you can have a great conversation with someone without having to say much at all.
  • Business cards: Always have them handy, says Handal. "They're an effective way for you to leave your name behind so that people remember who you are."
  • Say the person's name: "People like to hear their own name," says Handal, pointing to another one of Carnegie's basic principles—that a person's name is the sweetest sound to that person. So when you meet someone, use his name in conversation. Doing so makes the other person feel more comfortable, like you really know him and he knows you.
8. Be Yourself - Many introverted professionals think they have to act like an extrovert in networking situations. While you do have to make an effort to be more gregarious than normal, you shouldn't be artificial. "You don't have to be the schmoozer," says Never Eat Alone's Ferrazzi. The problem with the schmoozer's approach to networking is that he doesn't have the right intent: He's not interested in helping other people—only himself, says Ferrazzi. "Be the authentic, aw-shucks, humble, shy person you are. It can be endearing. Don't try to be something you're not," adds Ferrazzi. In other words, it's OK if you're a little awkward. Just don't keep apologising for it.

9. Tap into Your Passions - Sarikas recommends joining clubs and attending events that relate to an interest or activity you enjoy. If you're a budding oenophile, attend a wine tasting at your local liquor store. Eager reader? Join a book club. Can't get enough of the pigskin? Attend a football game or watch one at a bar. "Just because you're a technology professional doesn't mean you should only go to technology conferences to network," says Sarikas. "That person sitting in front of you [at the ball game] might have a job you always dreamed about or work in a company that you want to get into. You could sit behind them the whole season and never know that unless you initiate a conversation." The advantage of engaging in activities you enjoy with other people is that it makes conversation so much easier. So while you're analysing the cabernet's nose, discussing the plot of A Thousand Splendid Suns or sharing game stats, ask the person with whom you're chatting for her name and about her work. There's no reason not to do so if you're having an amiable conversation. Attending gatherings where you feel comfortable helps you put your best foot forward, says Debra Feldman, an executive talent agent and job search expert. "Avoid situations where you might be stressed, rushed or distracted from your networking mission," she adds. If you do find yourself in a room full of strangers at a technology conference or party, Ferrazzi recommends going straight to the stuff that interests you. "When you talk about things you're passionate about, you will light up and appear more engaging," he says. "You don't have to find a shared interest [to connect with others]. You just have to share your interests." So be sure to ask the people around you what they do in their spare time.

10. Ask for Introductions - Peter Handal, Dale Carnegie & Associates' chairman, CEO and president, notes that shy people attending conferences tend to find one person with whom they spend all their time for the duration of the event. Although settling in with one person may be more comfortable for the introvert than introducing himself to lots of new people, says Handal, it defeats the purpose of networking. He recommends that the shy person ask his new buddy if the new buddy knows anyone else and if the new buddy could make some introductions on his behalf. "That's a nice soft way for people at the shy end of the spectrum to meet others," says Handal.

11. Be Generous - Sometimes shy people have trouble networking because they don't think they have anything significant, such as a job or a contact, to give back to someone who helped them. Although networking works best when you do have something to offer, what you offer doesn't have to be a job, says Ferrazzi. Sincere interest in the other person—even flattery—is a form of generosity and goes a long way when you're networking, he says. "Be authentic, share your passions and help other people feel good about themselves or be successful—that's all you have to do to network," he says.

12. Be Prepared - If you're afraid you'll freeze up or get tongue-tied in a social setting, prepare yourself in advance. Think of ice-breaker questions you can ask people you meet. If you're attending an event specifically to network your way to a new job, have your personal pitch ready, says Feldman. She also recommends anticipating questions you may be asked, such as why you're looking for a new job, and have clear, concise answers at the ready. "Your delivery has to be attention grabbing to overcome interruptions and compensate for a lack of privacy," she says.

13. Follow Up - Sharing information—whether a website, article, report or phone number—with new contacts builds your credibility, says Sarikas. So if you promised to e-mail a report to someone you met on the plane, make sure you do that. "When you do what you've said you were going to do, it gives the other person the impression that you keep your word," she says. If you don't, you're just another schmoozer.

14. Get Over Your Fear of Rejection - In the course of networking, you'll encounter people who can't or don't want to help you . That's life, says Sarikas. Don't take it personally and don't dwell on it. It's all part of the process.

15. Take Risks - When you overcome your fear of rejection, it'll be easier to make cold calls and strike up conversations with strangers. "The person sitting next to you at a banquet or on an airplane may be feeling as uncomfortable as you are and will appreciate you breaking the ice," says Sarikas. "They just might be a fabulous contact for you or know the right person for you to talk to." You just won't know until you try.

16. See a Shrink - If you can't open up to people, you'll never be able to network. And if you absolutely can not overcome your shyness on your own, Ferrazzi recommends seeing a therapist who can help you understand why you're so shy and give you the tools to change. "Your ability to be intimate with others is the core of networking," says Ferrazzi. "Shy people know at their core that they're lonely and long for more intimacy. They just don't have the courage and the confidence to achieve it."

17. Be Courageous - It takes courage to walk up to a total stranger, introduce oneself, and engage in a meaningful conversation. But nothing will happen if you don’t have the courage to initiate the encounter. Realize that you have little to lose and a lot to gain by being brave.

18. Engage in Humble Inquiry - There is a terrific recent book by psychologist Edgar Schein that discusses the importance of asking questions and listening attentively to the other person as a means for creating rewarding interactions. Put getting to know the other person before talking about yourself.

19. Use Social Media Wisely - Social media can be a great networking tool, but it should never take the place of face-to-face communication. Get into the habit of reviewing your text messages or posts before sending them out. Try to read them from the other’s perspective. How will it be interpreted? How can you make your meaning clearer?

20. Be Natural, But Be Prepared - Practice makes perfect, so rehearse and role-play with a friend before embarking on a professional networking opportunity. Thinking about what you want to say beforehand lets you be prepared, but you also want to be authentic and let your true self shine through. [Read more about impression management here]

21. Make the Interaction Rewarding and Positive - Maintain positive affect throughout, staying upbeat and positive. Make sure to express that you enjoyed meeting the other person and valued the conversation.

22. Stay in Touch - Follow up is critical. Send a quick email to tell the person how much you enjoyed meeting her or him and that you enjoyed the conversation. Offer to be of service to the other person, if appropriate. Tell them that you look forward to meeting them again in the future. However, be judicious, and don’t overdo it. (i.e., don’t be a “stalker”).

23. Networking is a Two-Way Street - Here’s one of the most important things to remember when it comes to networking; it’s a two-way street. This means that whenever you meet someone, you need to ask them as much as possible regarding their business, as well as informing them them about yours. Always begin the conversion with the basics – your name, your company, affiliation, position, etc. Following the introductions and exchanging of basic information, you could ask the following questions:
  • What products or services does your company offer?
  • Who are your clients?
  • Who is in charge of the buying decisions?
  • How are you different from the competition?
24. Evaluate Your Contacts - Try all you might, there’s no possible way to network with everyone in your niche. That’s why it’s important to filter through your contacts to see who is worth establishing a relationship with. You can do this by asking yourself whether or not you can help each other. Keep in mind that you present yourself as a problem solver, and not just another name in their address book. And you should be looking for someone who has the same traits. Another way to evaluate your contacts is by taking a look back at people from your past. Was there someone in high school or college that now has an extensive network that is beneficial to you? It wouldn’t hurt to reach out to someone from your past and catch-up. There could be a valuable contact only one introduction away.

25. Meet-and-Mingle - Get yourself out there. Take up something like golf or a cooking class to meet new people who have similar interests as you. If you’re stuck on ideas, you could visit Groupon for suggestions. You could also consider finding out where like-minded people like you are spending their time. As you’re probably aware, every city has the bars, coffee shops or restaurants that cater to different groups. If you’re in PR, for example, then find out the locations where all the PR professionals hangout. Remember, people are more relaxed in social settings, so it’s one of the best chances to strike up a conversation. Another chance to network is by volunteering or attending a fundraiser. Both are great ways to meet with members of the neighborhood, discuss yourself or company and show that you’re behind a cause.

26. Always Get a Second Date - Whether it’s a fundraiser or industry event, it can get a bit overwhelming when making the rounds and introducing yourself to professionals you’ve never met before. And, even if there was a great first introduction, it’s difficult to gauge if that contact is worth continuing a relationship because time is probably limited. This is why it’s important to secure a second meeting. But, you don’t want to ask everyone in the room to lunch, dinner or cup of coffee. You want to strike up a conversation and see if there’s potential with this individual. If you don’t think that person is a good fit, then keep breaking the ice until you do find someone that sparks your interest. Once you do, make sure that you you get their contact information so that you can set-up a second meeting in the future.

27. Spend Time Social Networking - This doesn’t mean that you have to let social networking consume your life. What it means is that you should use social networking to your advantage. For example, if there is an upcoming conference, you could use everything from LinkedIn to a company website to learn information prior to meeting people who interest you. You could then follow up with that person via Twitter TWTR +1.49% or LinkedIn LNKD +0.46%. Another benefit of social networking is by sharing or creating relevant articles that your audience would find informative. Also make sure to join in discussions and answer or ask questions. Not only does this make you a member of a community, it also can also help establish you as an authority figure in your field. “Surround yourself with smarter people” says Francisco Cruz who has helped grow the Startup Grind community into a 100+ city startup networking company.   Cruz later stated “I feel like I will never be as awesome or as smart as those near me. And with that constantly hovering around your head it makes you strive to become better.”
Thanks for the post...
Surely it is a good way to increase our contact level also.......
(31-10-2016, 04:23 PM)Thomas A Wrote: Thanks for the post...
Surely it is a good way to increase our contact level also.......

well said thomas....
Good to know that.........
So many people thought networking is just to share nonsense and boast about their business. You make making enemies instead of networking.

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