We’ve all left networking events with piles and piles of business cards, probably feeling very productive. However, the true test of how effective a networking event is has to do with what happens after you get these cards. Chatting with a bunch of people for a few minutes and then moving on isn’t exactly the best way to making long lasting business connections. It is hard to make a lasting impression on a person that makes them want to call you and stay in touch in just a few minutes. This article will cover some changes you can make in your approach as well as some tactics you can use to solidify connections you make.
- Improve your listening skills
Listening is one of the most important factors when it comes to good communication. You can’t effectively communicate with another person if you’re only listening to the words they’re saying. Their tone, body languages, where they pause and the nuances of their answers will give you insight.
Listening doesn’t just mean being quiet. If you’re thinking to yourself while the other person is talking then you’re not giving them your full attention. Think about communicating like advertising: in order for it to be fully effective you need to know your audience. Listening allows you to give sincere compliments based on what they have said. It also gives you the opportunity to follow up with something they mentioned before which lets them know you were truly listening.
- Become an expert in your field
When you become an expert in whatever it is that you do people will start to see you as a wealth of information that can be tapped in to. When people see you as very knowledgeable they remember you easily and turn to you for suggestions and ideas. This is a great way to stay visible to your network.
You can learn more about your field by reading articles, books or reports related to your industry. You can also look at what your competitors are doing and learn new things from them. When combined with what you learn from your normal work, you’ll quickly find yourself to be extremely well informed. This knowledge can be very useful to other people, especially people you want to make a connection with.
- Go to events prepared with the right questions
Part of being successful at networking is asking good questions. If you’re asking basic yes or no questions you’ll find the conversation will quickly die down. Come up with some open-ended questions that require people to elaborate. This gives you a chance to listen, gather information and follow up with a better-informed question.
Ask questions that require a who, what, when, where and why answer. Compared to a simple yes or no questions this opens up the conversation and lets people know that you’re truly listening to them.
- Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
Balance is important when it comes to making connections. Everyone wants to get their say in but its important to remember the other person feels the same way. Part of making connections with other people is listening and showing interest in them by allowing them to control of the parts of the conversation.
If you notice yourself rambling, talking a lot or forcibly controlling the conversation, take a step back and stop. Let the other person offer their (uninterrupted) take on the discussion. Remember that communication is about give and take.
- Be yourself
Being comfortable makes communicating a lot easier. It’s hard to make a genuine connection when you’re trying to convince people that you’re something your not. Some people go to networking events dressed extremely professional and using complex words to show their knowledge. There’s nothing wrong with dressing your best but you wont connect with people by pretending to be something you’re not.
Relax and interact with people as you would your family or friends. Obviously events require a certain level of professionalism since you’re representing your brand and yourself. It’s still important to maintain a sense of self and be personable enough where people can connect with you in areas outside of business.
- Stay on people’s minds
Staying in touch with people is a great networking tactic. It lets people know that you’re thinking about them and allows you to open communication channels. Part of building your network is keeping contact with people to stay on there minds. Don’t just stop at one follow up, reach out again to let people know you’re serious about developing a connection.
Sending out birthday and holiday cards is also a great tactic for strengthening your existing relationships. This is a more personal tactic that helps to solidify the relationship outside of strictly business. You can get email add-ons or apps for your phone that reminds you of your networks birthdays.
- Look at you spend your free time
Things you allow in your life affect you on a subconscious level. Exposing yourself to different TV shows, books and new experiences helps you find new perspectives, stimulate your mind and helps to grow your business intelligence. People that regularly watch reality TV, sports and other frivolous programs will find it harder to carrying on a business conversation.
Try to expand what you do for fun. The new information and perspectives you gain will give you more ways to connect with people you meet.
There’s nothing wrong with watching silly shows that you enjoy but balance is key. Reading books that you normally wouldn’t read or a documentary instead of a movie has a tremendous impact on your ideas and insights.
When it comes to building your network and making connections be prepared to give before you receive. If you want to form a relationship with people beneficial to you, you’ll have to show them why you’re beneficial to them. You don’t want people to feel as if you’re using them just for your own gain. Be as genuine as possible and use these tips to help guide you through networking events.