Networking is an essential part of entrepreneurship and growth as an executive, especially when working with fast-growing tech companies. Attending events and building a strong professional network can give you access to new opportunities, feedback, credibility, and partnerships.
That said, networking can be intimidating—especially for anyone who is shy or introverted. But with the right networking techniques and strategies, anyone can learn to network effectively.
In this article, we will discuss four professional networking tips at events that can help beginners, introverts, and anyone looking to improve their networking skills.
Why Networking Skills Are Important
Networking skills are important for any executive looking to build meaningful relationships that can benefit their business or career. There is a lot of research that supports that professionals who network are more likely to be successful in their careers than those who don’t. Effective networking involves more than just meeting new people; it’s about creating strong connections that can provide access to new professional opportunities and growth.
Developing Networking Skills
Networking is a skill that can be developed with practice. It takes time to build a network from scratch, but the rewards are worth the effort. Developing networking skills requires an understanding of basic social networking skills such as active listening, making eye contact, and engaging in conversation. These skills can be practiced in everyday life, such as talking to a neighbor, a coworker, or a stranger in line at the grocery store. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become with initiating conversations and developing relationships.
4 Networking Tips At Events
Entrepreneur networking events are excellent opportunities to network with like-minded individuals, share ideas, and build relationships. However, attending networking events can be daunting for people who are not comfortable with networking. Here are four networking tips to help you get the most out of your next networking event.
1) Make the First Move
Approaching people at networking events can be intimidating, but remember that everyone is there for the same reason: to network. To make the first move, start with a smile and a friendly greeting. Be confident and introduce yourself. You can break the ice by commenting on the event, asking how they heard about it, or if they have attended before. Making the first move can help you to build a rapport with the person you are speaking with.
I’m an extrovert, and even I feel uncomfortable walking into a room full of strangers. I start by scanning the room for the other single folks who look lost and nervous and make the first move! I offer up my hand, joke about how awkward these things are, and pretty soon we’re busy recruiting all the other lonely-looking folks to join our conversation.
– Robin Lanning, VP of Sales and Marketing at Tactive
2) Be Genuinely Curious
Being curious is one of the most effective networking techniques. Ask questions that show interest in the person you are speaking with. Asking open-ended questions allows the other person to talk about themselves and share their experiences. When you are genuinely curious, you create a relaxed environment that makes the conversation flow more naturally.
When you show up to an event, don’t be the person that stares at someone’s name tag, and your first question is “so, what do you do?” That question will naturally get answered as the conversation evolves. In being a little different in your approach, you are more memorable and humanizing. One of my favorite quotes is, “in humility, count others more significant than yourself.” It makes it much easier to be genuinely curious when meeting others if you lean into humility.
– Jackson Troxel, VP of Sales and Marketing at Multiply Technology
3) Ask Unique Questions
To stand out from the crowd, ask unique questions that show your interest in the person you are speaking with. Avoid asking the standard questions such as “What do you do?” or “Where do you work?”. Instead, ask questions that are specific to the person’s background or interests. This will help to create a more memorable conversation and make it easier for you to follow up with them later.
Two things that lead to surprisingly wonderful conversations with strangers at networking events – 1) Don’t ask “what do you do?” – instead ask a unique question that gets them talking about what they’re passionate about – this could be personal or professional. My example is asking someone, “what is your favorite thing to do to recharge?” 2) Instead of sharing your elevator pitch on what you do, share a couple sentences on why you do what you do, and why you’re passionate about it.
– Daniel Fuller, Partner at FullStack
4) Ask “What Can I Do For You?”
Like any relationship, networking is a two-way street. You’ll need to show that you are willing to give as well as receive. A simple way to do this is by asking, “What can I do for you?”. This question shows that you are interested in helping the person you are speaking with and can lead to opportunities to collaborate or share information.
Expect to give much more than you get. Receiving can take years with no guarantee. End conversations with “what can I do for you?” Definitely stay focused and study up if you don’t know how to do that in a networking conversation. Read The 20-Minute Networking Meeting, professional edition and adapt it to your current situation whether it’s in transition (the primary focus of the book), looking for new clients or like-minded individuals.
– Rick McGlinchey, Co-founder at PureInsights
Effective Networking Strategies
Networking requires a deliberate effort to build relationships. Here are some effective networking strategies to help you get the most out of your networking efforts.
- Set goals: Set goals for each networking event. Identify the people you want to meet, the information you want to gather, and the opportunities you want to create.
- Follow up: Follow up with the people you meet after the event. Send an email or connect on LinkedIn. This shows that you value the relationship and can lead to further opportunities.
- Be visible: Attend events regularly, be an active participant, and contribute to the conversation. This will help you to establish your credibility and build your reputation as a valuable member of the network.
- Be authentic: Being authentic in networking means being genuine and true to yourself. It’s essential to be honest about who you are, what you do, and what you’re looking for in a networking event. Authenticity is crucial in building trust and forming meaningful connections with others.
Effective networking skills can help entrepreneurs and professionals achieve their goals, build meaningful relationships, and expand their network. Basic networking skills, such as active listening, making eye contact, and engaging in conversation, can be developed with practice. By attending entrepreneur networking events, making the first move, being genuinely curious, asking unique questions, and showing a willingness to help others, you can start building a powerful network from scratch.
Networking takes time, effort, and a willingness to step outside of one’s comfort zone, but the rewards can be significant. By following these networking tips and strategies, you can take your networking skills to the next level.
We hope these networking tips from the community will help you build more authentic relationships at your next professional networking event!
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