We all have that one person in our team who always knows the right people in the right places. We all have that one friend who is extremely sociable, and is known to have good ‘People’s Skills’. Some say it is an innate talent, some say it can be learnt and honed over time, but networking is not everyone’s cup of tea. But a lot of businesses, jobs and roles depend on this one aspect alone – how well you can network. Every professional event allots a time slot to ‘networking’, in the garb of lunch or high tea.
But the real question is, for every person who aces networking, how many people are scared from the idea of talking to people and making new contacts if their life depends on it. People’s Skill, as we all know, isn’t all that common in people. But fret not, help is at hand, as we have put together a few basic networking rules for events, which will help you get started:
Set a goal
Unless the event has participants in single digits, set a goal with how many people you want to talk to, and for what purpose. After you have decided that you will talk to at least X number of people, make sure you try to stick to that number. If the immediate goal of getting to know more people and exchanging cards is not decided, do not talk about business and work more than needed; keep the conversations light and open.
First impressions do matter
Don’t be cocky and assume that you’ll be able to charm your way, like you do with people on individual basis. Think beforehand about what you are going to talk about – the starting point and the takeaways from the interaction. Formulate a statement that describes you – as an individual – in the best manner, with minimum words. Brevity and crispness in conversations comes with effort and experience, and will do good to communication skills in general.
Don’t jump the gun
Do not mistake networking events for a place where deals are made. Sure, the end goal could be to sell your product to prospective clients, but doing so during the first interaction isn’t recommended. The idea is to open a channel of communication, and work out a deal benefitting both parties, so do not jump the gun by offering, or accepting a lucrative deal.
Make it a point to get and give referrals
A lot of people make the mistake of only talking to and approaching people who could be potential buyers or clients - but make it a point to talk to anyone that you can, and get some referrals. If they can’t refer you to another person, organisation or product, talk about upcoming events, plans or any information that can be useful. Referrals are a two-way street, so give as many referrals as you receive.
Although it is impolite to scribble during a conversation, but make sure you make some sort of physical note about the people you talk to, immediately after the conversation. You must make a note of whom you contacted, who referred them, when the conversation happened, what was discussed, what is the follow-up etc. because talking to many people about similar things in a small time frame can be confusing and you can only make so many mental notes. A few experts recommend writing these bullet points on the flip side of the business card of the said contact, to keep an easy record.
Reciprocate and follow-up
Last, but far from least, do not forget to drop in an email or phone call to the people you talked to during the event and had a conversation with; even if there will be no immediate end goal of the association. Networking isn’t about YOU building a contact list, but two entities connecting with the possibility of working together in the future, so reciprocate that feeling of inclusivity and follow-up with the people you are supposed to.
The end rule is that networking has evolved way beyond the customary practice of exchanging cards, as people end up pitching ideas and products under two minutes using technology. In such a setting, building a network of relationships that will be extensive and beneficial in the future, for it can translate into new opportunities for you to grow, is more prudent than ever. Don’t forget, meeting the right people isn’t as important as meeting people the right way!