Ten Excellent Networking Tips

Having just attended two networking events in an equal number of evenings (PR-Net and 27 Dinner), I had the opportunity to practice some of the tips I learnt from Colette Carlson’s “Communication secrets to change your life” seminar last weekend. I’m still learning and some of these tips take a bit of practice (they don’t call it net-work for nothing), but I’ve found them to be incredibly useful:

1. Wear your stripes

Make sure to introduce yourself at every opportunity. Let people know who you are upfront. Don’t lose an opportunity by simply saying “Hi, I’m Robynn”. Rather say “Hi, I’m Robynn Burls, the owner of Encyclomedia, the online media database for the PR industry. And you are?” Now people know who you are and it opens the opportunity for them to ask you more about what you do. 

2. Introduce yourself to the loners - you’ll be their hero

No-one likes to be standing alone at a networking event, it’s embarrassing! It makes you do stupid things like pretend you’re checking email on your cell (and we all know you’re really only trying to look busy).

Make a point of walking up to the person and introduce yourself. The loners will be so grateful to finally be involved that they won’t be able to forget you. Remember, the objective behind good networking is to become memorable in the minds of others.

3. Bring outsiders into the conversation - more hero-factor

When you’re chatting in a group and you see that certain individuals are being side-lined, pull them back into the conversation by saying “John, what do you think about that?” By giving him the opportunity to get back into the group, you’ll make yourself more memorable to John.

Also, when you are talking, be inclusive and connect with everyone’s eyes, not just the person who asked you a question.

4. Lost and alone? Start a conversation

It’s always tough, if not a little daunting, when attending an event alone. Don’t get stuck in a quiet corner playing with your phone. Walk straight up to the busiest area, normally the bar, or around the registration table. Remember to smile, it makes you look more approachable - people like friendly people. Find another person and casually comment ”I don’t know anyone here. How about you?”

There you have it, you’ve started a conversation and it wasn’t so difficult. The fear of doing something is always far worse than actually doing it.

5. Embarrassing silence? Prepare ahead

We’ve all experienced that dreaded lull in conversation where you nervously take a gulp of wine, hoping someone will think of something to say by the time you’ve swallowed. Now you can use this silence to your advantage. Depending on the type of people attending the event, take some time out beforehand to read some recent blog posts or newspaper articles related to their field of interest. Find something quirky or humorous (no front-page dreary news stories please) and keep it at the back of your mind.

The moment people start fidgeting and looking around, you can add “hey, did any of you read Dave Duarte’s post about Nokia’s hilarious “position art” campaign?” If someone says yes, then invite them to tell the group about it. Not only have you saved the conversation, for which everyone is enormously grateful, but you’ve also given someone else the opportunity to tell a story. This once again makes you more memorable in the story-teller’s mind.

6. Ask unusual, but appropriate questions

Aim to create conversations that connect. You need to be a little strategic and use the short space of time that you spend talking to someone to build rapport (find common ground). Talking about the weather or the view is only convenient when you can’t think of anything else meaningful. Don’t waste an opportunity, rather prepare some questions ahead of time. Remember, there’s a bit of “work” in networking.

You could say something like “tell me what you do on weekends”. This is a clever question because it lets the person speak about their passions. People find it easy to talk about things they’re genuinely passionate about, so you can easily accelerate the conversation from there. If someone says they like to go hiking, then simply say “oh, tell me about that”.

7. Focus on others

It’s better to be interested than interesting. It’s a funny thing, but research has shown that the more you get a person to speak about herself, the more she will remember you as being interesting.

8. Make notes of people’s interests

When you get home after a networking event, make a note of everything that you can remember about the people you met - how many dogs and cats they have, what their children’s names are, what their hobbies are, etc. You could put this into a spreadsheet and categorise it by event or industry. Preferably synch the spreadsheet with your phone so you can quickly check the details again on-the-go.

The next time you meet the person, try asking how the wife’s rowing regatta went and see how his face lights up!

9. Give before getting

Once you know what a person’s interests are, take it a step further than simply bringing it up the next time you meet. Use the information to help you connect and build a relationship. Use Google Alerts, Amatomu, Muti or Afrigator to search for new content relevant to the person’s interests. Then send a quick email with a link to the article or blog post saying that you thought he or she would find it interesting.

Wow, now you’re making a real impact in the person’s mind. Try to help others get what they want and you become a trustworthy, memorable contact.

10. Close a conversation with class

When at a networking event, it doesn’t serve you to spend the entire evening chatting to one individual. The objective is to meet as many people as possible who can help you get your ideas, interests and agendas heard (whether that’s making a new bunch of friends or finding potential clients).

So when you find yourself stuck in a long-winded conversation, take advantage of a natural lull. Confidently say “well, it was really lovely meeting you Fanie, I hope we get to meet again soon. Enjoy the rest of your evening”. Then you’re free to shake hands and move on back to the bar where you can start again and meet someone new.

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20 Responses to “Ten Excellent Networking Tips”

  1. 1 rafiq

    Great post. So bummed I couldn’t make it.

  2. 2 Eric

    ahhh - now I know why you chatted to me…
    I looked like a loner!! I was actually on a REALLY important call! :) I was…I really was….

  3. 3 Wade Balsdon

    Very nice blog. Good information that we often forget. Thanks.

  4. 4 Garrick

    All of this is so true! This is really useful for us guys that are new to the networking scene. Thanks Robynn.

  5. 5 Nicola Featonby-Smith

    Great blog Robynn. Another ‘build your network & relationships’ idea is to put people’s birthdays (clients, suppliers, media, etc) into your electronic diary & send an e-mail on their birthday every year.

  6. 6 Robynn

    Thanks for all the great feedback guys!

    Eric, you had so many people around you that you could hardly be perceived as a “loner”. :)

    Nicola, thanks for the great idea. Perhaps we could take that a step further and post a little birthday card to people. How often do you get a birthday card in the post? That would surely help to make you stand out in their minds.
    By the way, my birthday is on 19 August. ;)

  7. 7 Mxolisi

    Thanks for the good tips Robynn.

    May I just add on - “well, it was really lovely meeting you Fanie… do you have a card (business card) here’s mine…keep in touch…

  8. 8 iphone games music

    Nice blog, i have added it to my favourites, greetings

  9. 9 patti graham

    great article - we are a womens entrepreneurial network and we have put your networking article as a link off our newsletter !!

  10. 10 A Coffey

    Great posting. I sure like this tip on focusing on others! Way to go!

  11. 11 Conferences Leicester

    I agree with all the comments above. It was a really interesting read, like someone says its really easy to forget these basic networking principles so it was a refreshing read :)

  12. 12 Jim the Phoenix Property Manager

    From tip # 4: “The fear of doing something is always far worse than actually doing it.” — this is one of the most important things that we should remember throughout our lives, even beyond the already excellent networking tips posted by Robynn.

    Thanks for the really useful tips, Robynn.

  13. 13 Sarah Bakker

    Focus on others - This is very important. If people see that you are intent on what they are talking, then they will appreciate it and reciprocate.

  14. 14 Brett Thurston

    I’ve always hated networking. I get into a room full of strangers and all I want to do is hide in the corner. But unfortunately my new job requires me to do some networking and I’m just going to have to get used to it.

    Your list above is awesome. I’ve printed it out and added it to my growing collection of such tips.

    I do like your (oft-repeated) point that there is “work” in “network”. I think that’s a great observation. I guess I’ve always thought it just comes naturally to some people.

  15. 15 Law of Attraction

    Great advise.
    A tip I received was if the event is being recorded then try and get the mic, ask a question but when you stand up always say your name and your website.
    Amazing how many people listen to the recordings.

  16. 16 Sibyl Blizard

    I have been exploring for a bit for any high quality articles or blog posts on this sort of area . Exploring in Yahoo I at last stumbled upon this site. Reading this info So i am happy to convey that I’ve an incredibly good uncanny feeling I discovered just what I needed. I most certainly will make sure to do not forget this website and give it a glance on a constant basis.

  17. 17 Monica Clark

    Great reminders of how to stand out in social/business situations. It really is true that people like to talk about themselves, and that by listening closley, we can gain valuable information to help further our social game. I think you are right that a sincere and personal approach is very effective when it comes to social networking. Thanks for the excellent advice.

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