Most people attend networking events to gain something: sales leads, referrals, exposure, connections and opportunities to grow their business. Having organized more than 50 networking events over the past 10 years, I’ve seen plenty of these people leave disappointed, dismissing networking as a complete waste of time.
But I’ve also seen the opposite. I’ve seen people walk out with a handful of business cards feeling happy, inspired and excited. The major difference between these two groups of people is this: the people who leave on a high note are those who attend with just one goal in mind — to figure out how they can help others in the room.
Habits of Super Networkers
True networking occurs when there’s an understanding that everyone in the room has equal value. In its purest form, it’s about people enjoying other people, communicating passions and connecting with others who share those passions.
Networking is about listening, figuring out what others need and connecting them with people you think can help, without any designs for personal gain. The most successful networkers build genuine relationships and give more than they receive. They go beyond thinking, “What’s in it for me?” to ask “How can I help?”
To follow their approach, here are eight ways to network successfully and have fun doing it:
Network Before You Need It
Seasoned networkers can smell the stench of desperation from across the room. People can sense when someone is only concerned with their own agenda. Tip-offs ranging from a panicked look in the eyes to a portfolio brimming with resumes will send people running in the other direction. On the other hand, by networking with no ulterior motive, you can begin to build relationships and a reputation for being generous rather than self-serving.
Have a Plan
Since every person has value, it’s essential that you know your own value. Before you attend any networking event, get clear on what talents, strengths, skill sets and connections you bring to the table. Map out what you want to talk about, particularly how you may be able to help other people, either now or in the future.
Forget Your Agenda
While you may be tempted to network just to land a contact or talk to people you normally wouldn’t have access to, that’s a mistake. Instead, make it your goal to be open, friendly and honest, and forge connections. Generosity is an attractive quality and it’s something special that people will remember about you.
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