Fall into networking: Making the most of who you meet
In today’s world, networking is still one of the most effective means to producing business leads, establishing career opportunities, advancing personal opportunities, identifying best practices and uncovering business trends.While online networking has taken the world by storm, there is still much to be said for in-person relationship building. Whether it is a “business after hours” chamber event or a “lunch ‘n learn” at your local educational institution, it’s good to have a planned strategy for how to work the floor and make the most of the networking opportunity. Here are a few unique approaches to increase your visibility.

  • While it may seem overly obvious, the first place to gain visibility is with personal appearance. Attempt visual differentiation with a distinguishing sense of style. Writer Karen Hamilton noted that her red shoes helped her gain momentum at events, but joked that it was fleeting after her trick was made public. In your case, branded apparel in the form of dress shirts or sweaters will assist those you meet in associating you with your organization.
  • Before the event, conduct at least one hour of research. If the attendance list is available, research the people you intend to seek out. If entering blind, then have at least six current topics researched so you have something to contribute to conversation. An anonymous proverb reminds us that “Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.” This helps to establish you as a thought leader. Even if you don’t talk business specifics, you still get to show your intelligence and savvy.
  • Be authoritative and confident, showing that you’re someone worth knowing. Convey purpose to any individual or group with the delivery of an elevator speech. For more details on how to best prepare and deliver your pitch, visit our BluePaper™ on proper elevator speech execution.
  • Sometimes, conversation can feel awkward and contrived at networking events, but mixers offer a unique opportunity to liven up the crowd by discussing travel, exchanging cooking techniques, or even sharing holiday traditions. Note interesting conversations on the back of business cards and reference this information in your follow up. This personal connection will help identify you and solidify the relationship.
  • Rather than handing over a traditional business card, connect with a conversation piece. Your contact information can be disseminated in a variety of creative ways. Consider distributing a unique USB drive containing your company brochure or a pack of playing cards with a QR code as the artwork. Make sure the items are small and portable and have a story behind it that creates curiosity.
  • It’s common to leave a networking event with a fistful of business cards that sit on the corner of your desk until you’re able to find more time to input them into your contact database. One way to share contact information immediately is to employ mobile technology. Apps like JumpScan™ and Bump® allow for easy sharing and storage of contact information, complete with photos so your new contact doesn’t have to struggle to put the business card to a face.
  • Go above and beyond the typical LinkedIn® connection as a follow up. Instead, send a handwritten note and an “It was a pleasure meeting you” gift, like gourmet fortune cookies filled with a clever quip.

Hamilton, Karen. “Maximize Your Networking Potential—with Style.” More.ca. Transcontinental Media G.P., n.d. Web. 14 Aug. 2012.

“Eleanor Roosevelt.” Wikiquote. A Wikimedia Project/Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License, n.d. Web. 14 Aug. 2012.

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