05 Apr Connect, care and make an impression – Take your networking skills to the next level
“More business decisions occur over lunch and dinner than at any other time, yet no MBA courses are given on the subject.” – Peter Drucker
You enter a room buzzing with energy from business people talking, laughing and exchanging business cards. While hanging your jacket, you notice a couple of highly charismatic individuals that effortlessly mingle from one group to another greeting people with a great smile and making even the most uncomfortable person in the group at ease. What is their secret?
Networking is a skill and you will be introduced to three concepts that most excellent connectors share in order to take your networking ability to the next level.
Before the event: TOP (Target, Open, Pitch)
1. Set specific targets for attending the event. For instance, a simple goal to start with could be to leave the event with one new idea and three new contacts.
2. Be open. Keep in mind that networking is about being genuine and building trusting relationships and seeing how you can help others. Make sure to be approachable and friendly by smiling, having an open body language and make eye contact.
3. Compose your pitch. Make sure to prepare a couple of different versions for presenting yourself. Make sure to clearly communicate who you are, what you do and why you do it. Bonus tip: Using a story in your pitch can make it much more memorable.
At the event: MICSC (Mingle, Initiative, Care, Support, Connect)
4. Mingle and take initiative. Develop the habit of introducing yourself to people as well as introducing people to each other. Work the room and connect with several individuals. Bonus tip: Don’t only mingle with the people you already know.
5. Show that you care. Focus on being friendly and helpful. Prioritize to get to know the person you are talking to as well as possible and give the individual your full attention by listening attentively. Ask open-ended questions in order to get the conversation to flow. Bonus tip: Remember people’s names to show that you care.
6. Support others and ask for support. Become known as a powerful resource for others and be generous with ideas, connections and knowledge. Networking is a two–way street, so make sure to be able to articulate what you are looking for and how others may help you. When someone ask you “How may I help you?”, make sure to be specific in what you currently are in a search for regardless if it’s a job or funding for your start-up.
7. Connect. If you are ready to move on, simply say, “I’ve really enjoyed meeting you.” Then shake hands and exchange contact information. Bonus tip: In order to make it easier for you to follow-up, write down some short notes from the conversation on the back on the business card when you are leaving the event.
After the event: FAN (Follow-up, Appreciation, Nurture)
8. The follow-up. Make it a habit to always follow-up on the people you have met preferably within five days with a brief email or note. This is an opportunity to develop the relationship further. Bonus tip: Follow-up by adding your new connections on LinkedIn by making a reference to the event you met at in the invitation.
9. Show appreciation. After the event, express your gratitude to the organizer for the opportunity to participate.
10. Nurture your network. Most people think of networking as reaching out to new people, but don’t forget about the network that you already have. Make it a habit to connect with them on a regular basis. One way to stay in touch can be to send a link to an article that you think the person will appreciate and another way can be to make a virtual connection to two people in your network that you believe will benefit from meeting each other.
Networking is about building lasting, mutually beneficial relationships, which is an invaluable skill for your business’s success. Thus prove that you care and enjoy connecting with people by sharing ideas, opportunities and stories, as the person in front of you could potentially be your next manager, partner or best friend.
Note: This article was published in Stockholm School of Economics magazine, Minimax, produced by the student association, in the number: Future, March 2012.