Networking is a necessary evil, but when used for the forces of good, it’s an amazing tool that ignites opportunity through relationship building. Learning how to do it well is a skill set unto itself and one that takes practice. Most of my business mantras don’t come from Kid Ink, but with regards to networking, I completely agree with him: “Let’s just be honest. Let’s be real.” Here are a few dos and don’ts to help you get through your next networking event.
1. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself.
While it can be intimidating to roll up on someone and start a conversation, it’s often necessary. There is no shame in admitting that bum-rushing your way into a conversation isn’t your favorite approach for relationship building. Sincerity often goes a long way so be honest and acknowledge your discomfort. If you’re from the cool and confidant school of networking then know what you plan to say to engage your audience.
2. Try and be a friend first.
Don’t go in for the kill and start with your elevator pitch. The me, me, me approach is never a big hit! Genuinely be interested in whomever you are speaking to. Most people love to talk about themselves so start there. Ask questions about who they are, where they are from, and what they do before you hit ‘em with the glory that is you.
3. When sharing info about yourself, be sure to keep it concise yet interesting.
Have the basics ready, but make sure it doesn’t sound scripted. Talk with passion and confidence, but make sure it’s an inclusive conversation and not a sales pitch.
4. Keep it short and sweet.
If communicating via email or social media messaging it is important to keep it short and sweet. Copy-heavy outreach is usually skimmed or wholly ignored. The subject is as important as the text in the body. A creative subject gets your email opened and read.
5. Bring a wingperson.
Sometimes having a friend or business associate at your side that knows you well allows you to play off each other and makes the conversation a little more natural and informal. AND NEVER FORGET YOUR BUSINESS CARDS!
6. Do something to make yourself memorable.
A funny story, a quick anecdote, or a seemingly unrelated question about your conversation partner’s life will make you stand out and give you a chance to follow up via email and reference your own originality. A little humor and wit can go a long way. This is especially important if you are at a networking event where everyone has similar goals and lots of conversations are happening.
7. Look for commonality.
It’s great to find a parallel interest that you can bond over. It doesn’t matter if it’s work-related or totally inane and random. Whether it’s a mutual passion for Fetty Wap, a love of DIY crafts, or a commitment to binge-watching “Homeland,” finding common ground is a great way to solidify yourself in the hearts and minds of whomever you’re chatting with.
8. Don’t be too thirsty.
If you sense that whomever you’re speaking to isn’t interested: gracefully bow out. It’s like dating, it’s way better to be the ghoster rather than the ghostee.
9. For networking in the online space, don’t be afraid of the “cold pitch.”
Especially if you can find a way to engage with someone that will prevent it from feeling totally random. There is no shame in doing a little research without taking it to stalker-ville. It makes you seem prepared and shows that you’re not interested in wasting anyone’s time. You are reaching out for a reason.
10. Make sure you follow up.
Follow up in some capacity a few days to a week later. Keep the conversation going with new questions and interests so your relationship can evolve. Make a plan for a future meetup.
About the Author: Jessy Fofana founded La Rue PR over ten years ago after successfully directing public relations and marketing initiatives for an impressive list of well-known fashion, home décor, lifestyle and cosmetics brands, and retailers. With an experienced team of professionals, LaRue PR covers all the bases including print and digital media coverage, influencer relations, synergistic brand partnerships, and more. LaRue PR provides the skill and experience of a large agency with the creativity, dedication, and affordability that can only be offered by a boutique firm.
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This story was originally published on February 20, 2019, and has since been updated.