Do you know what’s worse than mom guilt? Finding a stack of business cards at the bottom of your purse that you meant to follow up with six months ago and well, completely forgot about...
It really stings when you consider the time you invested to go across town to the networking event, paid for a glass of meh wine, stayed for the obligatory two-ish hours, and actually really enjoyed some of the conversations you had.
Photo Credit: Brea Chislett
You’re sure you had a great conversation with that one woman, Sheila, but didn’t she have a purple card? Oh no, that may have been Kelly. You can’t remember so you just toss the cards in the pile on your desk and ask the universe to help your paths cross again one day (spoiler, that’s unlikely).
Having a great network, and learning how to optimize your connections is critical to success! With the rise of social media and technology in general, it's easy to hide behind a screen and attempt to connect with others. However, at the end of the day, good old-fashioned face-to-face interaction is still the most effective way to network and the old saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” is truer than ever.
In fact, according to Hubspot, “85% of people say that in-person meetings and conferences helped them build more meaningful business relationships, and 95% said face-to-face meetings are essential to building long-term business relationships.”
This makes complete sense. Think about other business owners you look up to most. It’s likely that they have a few things in common: bravery, strong work ethic, and a deep and intricate network of people they consistently tap in to and provide for.
We get it, it’s not easy to jump into a room full of new people and immediately begin to make conversation and connections, but if you’re going to put yourself in the room—which is a must— we want you to get the most bang for your buck.
Today, we’ve got some easy tips to help you make the most of your networking, and in turn, gain amazing new clients, connections, and friends.
1. Be A Giver
The best way to create stronger interactions and connections? Have an attitude of giving versus receiving. Ask questions, get curious, learn about the other person's life and business and ask how you can help them with something they’re challenged with. Do they need a new accountant? Restaurant recommendations? Do you have a hack you’ve discovered to keep your kids busy this summer? When you help someone else it makes you memorable and gives you a great reason to follow up, and in turn, they’ll gladly return the favor.
2. Don’t Speed Network
Speed dating can be great to rule out potential love matches, but when it comes to networking for your business it’s important to slow down, be present, listen, give advice, and ask great questions. Why? Because the best relationships often come when you least expect them and develop over time. When you take the time to get to know someone, and come from a place of generosity and connection versus expectation you never know how that may pay off in the future.
For instance, at Pepperlane, so many of our members have told us that they’ve made amazing, often unexpected connections with people that have supported them in countless ways, including making introductions, giving kind and candid feedback, and ultimately helping them land more business. These connections also gave them motivation and inspiration to keep going, even when the going got tough!
3. Quality Over Quantity
Like most good things in life, less is often more. With social media constantly telling us we need more likes, followers, and connections, it can be easy to feel that we need to attend every event and stack up business cards and a loose network of LinkedIn connections as quickly as possible. This generally results in a big stack of business cards and a bunch of LinkedIn connections you don’t really know zero. The key to quality connections is finding the right groups to be part that are full of like-minded people that keep you moving forward.
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4. Get Personal… But Not Creepy
Adding in personal details when you follow-up with someone is guaranteed to boost their impression of you. Do mention something that you enjoyed about the conversation and why you’d like to keep in touch but don’t launch a full online research project on them and list off everything you found. Keep track of something you spoke about by writing a quick note on the back of their business card or create a simple Google sheet to reference later. That way, when you’re ready to follow-up you’ll be able to include something you find useful or interesting about the conversation and in turn, they’ll feel like you really listened to what they had to say.
5. Prepare to Be Memorable
We all want to make a lasting impression in a new group of people, however, sometimes finding the confidence to show up as 100% ourselves is not easy. One way to gain confidence is to start before you step foot in the room. Take a look at the guest list to get a sense of who will be in the room; then you can decide who you want to approach and can have a few questions ready to ask them to get the conversation flowing. If possible, look for opportunities to have one-on-one conversations which are generally less overwhelming and memorable.
Next, as you listen to what they have to say stand up straight, make eye contact and smile naturally. All of these small adjustments will make you appear more confident even if you’re not feeling it at all! Finally, be prepared to tell your story and if possible add in a dash of humor to help break the ice.
6. Know Your Value
We all have skills and talents that are unique to us. Do you know and can you articulate what yours are? Before walking into a room, take a moment to ignite your inner Beyoncé and hype yourself up for the big event. Try this mantra: “Everyone in the room needs what I offer, which is (insert what you’re amazing at) and I am deserving of success and great connections.” Use the rave reviews and feedback you’ve received from customers to help you hone in on your x-factor and minimize the feeling that you’re bothering someone.
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7. Seek Out Diversity
It’s natural to prefer to populate your network with people who are similar to you or have the same backgrounds or training, and therefore naturally think more like you. However, doing so may form echo chambers that can actually be harmful to your career. Try to proactively seek out those that can give you depth in perspective, including people of all ages, ethnicities, races, and backgrounds.
8. Give it a Minute
Remember that people are busy! Don’t get me started on the same cycle that can happen right after you hit send. You may think, “Was my tone off? Did I say too much? Not Enough? OMG! It’s been two days and they haven’t responded. I bet I upset them somehow.” That’s very very unlikely. In reality, they’re likely caught up in the million things that make up our busy lives. Give your new contact at least one week to respond before following up.
9. Nurture Your Network
Don’t wait until you need something from someone to reach out. Do your best to be valuable over time to keep your contacts active. One great way to provide ongoing support is to think about the people you’ve met and begin to connect them with one another based on their needs. For instance, if you meet someone that is looking for a good photographer, and you met one a few weeks earlier, take the opportunity to introduce them via email to one another. This is a quick and easy task that really solidifies that you care about the people you meet, and in turn, they’re likely to make amazing connections for you as well.
Remember that everyone you speak to is a human just like you. We all have interests, passions, and desires outside of our professional life so coming to an event with that in mind may help ease some of the stress and help you create more meaningful connections.
Title Photo Credit: Brea Chislett