I’m not the world’s best networker. I’m an introvert, so it takes a lot out of me to get out there and try to connect with others. But I make the effort when I attend conferences like the Financial Blogger Conference.
I’ve gone every year, and I have always made an effort to network. This year, though, I paid closer attention to the mechanics of networking. Mostly, though, I learned from watching others. Here are some of the things I learned about networking:
Show Interest in Others
One of the best things you can do while networking is to show interest in others. Yes, the ultimate goal of networking is to advance your own career and get a little help with your endeavors. However, that shouldn’t be the only thing you think about.
You need to show interest in others. When you are genuinely interested in others, it shows. They respond to you, and they will remember that you listened to them. At FinCon, I was really impressed with Jaime Tardy and her obvious interest in other people. Even though I didn’t spend much time speaking with her, I did watch her interactions with others. And she was always interested in what they were saying.
Make sure you are giving, not just taking.
Know What You Do
I’m in the process of fine-tuning what I do. This makes it hard to network sometimes, since I don’t always have my “elevator pitch” down pat. One thing I noticed about Jason Steele is that he knows exactly what he does — and he articulates it very well. When networking, the ability to describe what you do is important, since it can provide others with an immediate idea of how you might be able to help them. Pinpoint what you do, and share it with others, and they can see your value. Even if the person you’re talking with doesn’t need your skill set, chances are that he or she knows someone who does. I met several people last week who said, “I know just who to introduce you to!”
This is something that I don’t have to work on. I’m always myself. Sometimes I’m a more boisterous version of myself as I work to interact, but I’m always genuine. It’s even easier to be genuine since my mild ADD means that I’m occasionally socially inept and I make “out there” comments.
People can tell when you’re being fake. I was in a group with a few other people when someone joined in. He wasn’t being very genuine, and we could all tell. When he left, a couple of the others commented on how it was difficult to carry on the flow with someone so obviously fake butting in.
Meet New People
Finally, meet new people. Jim Wang and Steve Chou both make it a point to meet at least five new people when they attend conferences. That’s smart. It’s not something I do, since I have a hard time going up to people and introducing myself. However, I do try to be open so that when other people approach me I am friendly. Sadly, the only way I meet new people is when they introduce themselves to me. It’s something I need to work on.
What about you? What are your best networking tips?