IT’S party season: your best chance in the whole year to make new contacts. Here are five steps to better networking.
1. SMILE. “It makes you both more relaxed and positive,” says networking expert Daphne Thissen. Also, keep eye contact when talking, and respond to what people are saying. “It makes people feel appreciated” and more likely to connect with you.
2. LISTEN. You should always spend more time listening than talking. “Be generous, invite other people to join in – the more you give the more you get.” Remember some people don’t want to talk about themselves because they think their job is boring. “But if you allow them to talk about what they know, everybody is interesting. And you never know what you will hear.” But if something is not going well, don’t force it, just move on.
3. GO FOR QUALITY NOT QUANTITY.
“I never leave an event with 20 business cards, it’s more like three or four,” says Thissen. You don’t have to madly work the room, just try to make a connection with a few people. Those are more valuable and you are more likely to strike up a good working relationship if you can remember somebody’s face. Networking is “all about the long game” and the key is making good contacts that mean something, not card-collecting.
4. EMAIL. If you didn’t meet somebody you wanted to talk to at an event, then email them and say: “We were at the same party but we didn’t meet up, can we go out for a coffee?” If you are really keen to meet somebody, then you can email before an event, saying you hope to meet up. Don’t worry about badgering people, if it is a “meaningful” email then they shouldn’t mind being contacted.
5. REMEMBER: this is work. If you are really getting on with somebody, don’t be tempted just to talk to them all night. These are the contacts that are easy to re-establish, so you should feel able to move on. On the other hand if you are getting monopolised then just say that you really have to speak to somebody else – that’s not rude, it’s just professional.
Daphne Thissen is the author of Notes to Self, a guide to networking. For a copy, visit www.thepartnershipbuilder.com