How to Instantly Boost Your Network
Networking is the key to building career longevity, so why does ‘networking event’ strike fear into the hearts of so many personable people? How can you rock a networking event and exude expertise in your field while being a confident connector?
With the right strategies, you’ll get there in no time. Let’s start with walking into the event with the right mindset.
Instead of walking in focused on your ego (i.e. preoccupied with self and fear of failure or judgment), or focused on what you can get out of the event, shift to a mindset of service. Go into the event with the attitude of helping others — because you can! Your network, connections, and insight can serve others.
Good networking leads to authentic relationships. This means you need to show genuine interest in the person you are talking to, learn more about them and their business, and ask thoughtful questions that go beyond the surface. If you serve the person and the conversation, they will return the favor and ask about you and your business.
During the Networking Event
Have a non-salesy elevator pitch prepared about who you are and your story, and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. This is a networking event, so tell others what you’re looking for and need, and ask them the same. Offer to make introductions or to share resources or suggestions, and others will be inclined to do the same.
Before the event, do some breathing and mindset exercises in the car. Slow, deep breaths get the oxygen flowing, and calm the overproduction of the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol. Find a good meditation app to help guide you from anxious to zen. Insight Timeris a free app with thousands of meditations. Working out before an event can also help you battle some stress and release some endorphins.
Repeat a mantra in your head as you walk in and when you start to feel any anxiety at the event. Here are a few you might try out:
- I am here to be of service.
- People want to meet me.
- I have value to give.
Look for someone who is standing off to the side or sitting alone. Chances are they are just as uncomfortable at the event. Be of service and say hello, help them feel ‘a part of.’ There are perks to getting to know the wallflower because they have just as much to offer as anyone else at the event.
When talking with someone, avoid ‘script writing.’ You know, where you are spending all your energy thinking about what you’re going to say next, so you sound smart and clever. Calm down, Aaron Sorkin. Instead, listen with a service-focused mindset. Shift your focus from self to the other person instead of how witty or humorous you sound. Ask questions, and be open. The dialog will flow naturally (and let’s be real: nobody in real life talks like the characters in The West Wing.)
Go easy on the alcohol. No one likes a loud slurring drunk who thinks they are funnier than they really are. Swap liquid courage with breathing exercises and the real courage of just being yourself. Stick to a one drink maximum if you do decide to drink. If you need something to carry around but don’t want to drink, get a club soda with a lime.
Find the organizers and thank them for putting on the event. This shows gratitude, and also helps you make a meaningful connection with the well-connected. It’s okay to be honest and tell the organizers you struggle with networking events — they might just take you under their wing and introduce you to a few people. After all, they want their event to be a success, too!
As soon as you leave a networking event, immediately update your networking app. There are many to choose from, but we recommend Evernote. Add any new connections you’d like to keep in contact with. Include any interesting tidbits about them that came up in conversation, and also log their contact info in case you lose their business card.
Be sure to add tags, which you can search later. Make a note of where you met this person and when was the last time you connected with them. That way, when you email them to meet up, you can remind them about where you met and also keep track of who you haven’t spoken to in awhile.
Keeping a log of contacts as you grow your network is crucial to making you a better connector. You’ll meet many talented people at these events, and keeping a record of who you met will make you a more compassionate and organized networker.
Programs like Contactually can help you not only organize your network but will also prompt you to reach out on a regular basis and stay in touch.
Keeping Up with Connections
It may seem daunting to keep up with your connections, but never fear! This is why bars and coffeeshops exist. These liquids exist solely as a casual way to invite members of your network to come drink with you.
Sharing a cup o’ joe with somebody in your network also shouldn’t be limited to potential customers. Everyone has a network, so give freely and be gracious.
Add your contacts on LinkedIn or any other social media platforms relevant to your industry, this will help you to keep up with them and congratulate them on their successes as they continue to grow in their specialty. One of the best ways to stay in touch is to praise someone’s success and ask if they want to get drinks and catch up periodically. Everyone wants to share their victories.
When asking someone to meet up, be sure to refer to your contact app and pull out a fun fact from your initial conversation at the networking event. Make the person feel special, show that you were listening, and offer to help them in any way you can.
People like to help nice people. And you never know who is in their network.
Find an Accountability Partner
You may connect with someone who shares similar business challenges. With a weekly or bi-weekly accountability call, you can support each other and help one another follow through on commitments and goals. This can be set for a pre-determined amount of time of three to six months, and extend if mutually desired.
Organizing Your Own Mixers and Meetings
Continue to flex your connector muscles by bringing people in your network together, either for a brunch meet-up once a month or a casual mixer at a bar.
By bringing people together who may not have met each other otherwise, you provide a unique value to your network — and you can catch up with your connections all at once!
Not to mention, these sort of smaller networking opportunities can help start new partnerships, foster new ideas, and serve as a way for you to unite a common community of people.
Authentic networking goes beyond your performance or charisma:people may forget a clever joke you told, but they’ll never forget how you brought them together with likeminded people or how your inclusiveness made them feel.
To warm up for your next event, I challenge you to talk to three strangers a day for five days. This can be at the coffeeshop, the grocery store, in the elevator, or in an Uber. Say hello and ask how their day is going, how their weekend was, or compliment them. It doesn’t have to be a big back and forth. The goal is to get over that first ‘hello’ and get comfortable being uncomfortable with interacting with strangers.
The more you practice these techniques, the easier they’ll become. Networking is a muscle, so keep pushing yourself to grow and remember the value you can provide to others. You’re well on your way to becoming a confident connector.