12 Top Tips to Power Up Your Networking Skills

Business networking is a socio-economic activity where groups of like-minded business people recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities. A business network has focus on business activity. Usually it is a presentation of an interesting topic and free mingling before and/or after that. There is often some food there as well.

I’d like to give you 12 tips that help you network effectively.

1. BEGIN CASUAL

Begin the conversation with casual conversation about the weather, sports, movies, pets or common interests. It is often considered rude to ask immediately about a person’s career. Begin your conversation with casual talk.

2. IF AWKWARD, ADMIT IT

If you are having a difficult time getting a conversation started or if you are uncomfortable with networking, you should admit that sometimes these functions are awkward for you and ask the person for tips on how he/she goes about getting to know someone. If you are uncomfortable with networking, admitting that to the person you are talking to is almost always a great icebreaker. People will go out of their way to help to you. They will carry the conversation and frequently introduce you to others to make you feel welcome.

3. ASK INTERESTING QUESTIONS

The best conversationalists are people who can ask other people interesting questions. Prepare some interesting questions in advance. Good questions are i.e.: What would help you, something that I can keep in mind, if I could be of service sometime?

4. BE PREPARED TO PRESENT YOURSELF AND YOUR PROJECT VERY BRIEFLY

When asked, be prepared to present your name, what you do and also your project/occupation in about 30 seconds. Absolutely not longer than 1 minute. People are more interested in talking about themselves, than listening to you. Plus, you should be able to catch their interest in that brief time. This is what’s called the elevator pitch. If and when they have an interest or need to know more, then you can elaborate.

5. BE A GOOD LISTENER

The best way to show respect for what someone else is saying is to be a good listener. Provide responsive gestures and ask good follow-up questions.

6. BE A GOOD CONVERSATIONALIST

If you want to carry on good conversations, then you must stay contemporary on a variety of subjects, including current events, business trends, social and technical issues, sports, the arts, state-of-the-art management and leadership concepts.

When preparing for a networking function, you should keep up to date on current events, world affairs, emerging business trends. If it is a more subject specific event, make sure you are up to date on information in that field. Read, read, read. Read on a wide variety of topics.

I heard, (and believe) that if you read three books on any subject, you will know more than 95 percent of the rest of the world on that subject. By reading about many topics, you will always be able to engage people in great conversations.

7. EXPRESS JOY

People love to be around happy people. It does not mean you have to joke all the time. Put on an honest smile and look for the bright side. It is a lot easier to approach people smiling at you, right?

8. EXPRESS GRATITUDE

If during conversation, you get a good idea or advice, be sure that you thank the other person properly. Make sure they understand what they did to make you grateful. People love to be of service, specifically when it takes no extra effort from their side.

9. FOLLOW UP AFTERWARDS

After you have established a common interest and believe you would like to spend more time talking to this individual, you should ask for his/her business card/contact information and permission to call in a few days perhaps to find a time when you could meet. Don’t be too aggressive in trying to make that contact. A networking function is more of a social event than pure business. Meet lots of people by spending a few minutes with each. Collect lots of business cards, and then a few days after the event make contacts with people where it would be mutually beneficial to build a business relationship.

10. KEEP PROMISES

If you promise someone at a network something, see to that you deliver. Preferably over-deliver. If you don’t, word will get out and it spreads fast.

11. GET RID OF LEECHES – POLITELY

If you are at a networking event and someone latches on to you and follows you everywhere, you should excuse yourself from him/her, indicating that you have to meet with someone or perhaps visit the restroom. It is easy to get stuck with someone who follows you around everywhere you go. At some point, find a reason to excuse yourself or perhaps introduce him/her to someone and then excuse yourself from their conversation. Don’t let anyone dominate your time at a networking function.

12. DRESS APPROPRIATELY

How are others dressed that go to these functions? Ask if there is a dress code. If possible, make sure you stand out a little, but not too much. You should just distinguish yourself, not be ridiculous.