Networking is a professional gift. But how can you get the most out of it?
Having built personal and professional networks from scratch in Medellín and other far-flung parts of the world, we thought it would be good idea to share some insights into how to make the most of networking opportunities.
Whenever you go to a professional event, be sure of what you want to get out of it. Are you there to get feedback on the elevator pitch you’ve been practicing? Or find new suppliers? Do you want to leave having talked through a new business idea with a complete stranger? Regardless of what you want to accomplish, you need to have it clear from the moment you walk in the door. Having this personal task in mind will allow you to focus your conversations and energy. It will mean that you will use your time efficiently, instead of passing from one unproductive conversation to another, however pleasant they may be.
Have you ever met someone for the first time, started talking to them, and then watched as their polite smile begins to fade and their eyes start darting around the room looking for an excuse to leave your conversation? This is what happens when what you’re saying is not of interest to them, and do you know why? It is because you haven’t taken the time to ask about their needs. How do you prevent this from happening? It’s simple. Listen.
Listening is one of the most useful things that you can do at professional events for two main reasons. Firstly, it means you are likely to learn something new and that is always positive. The second is that if you have an understanding of the other person, then you are more likely to be able to see if they have something you want and/or if you have anything to offer them. If you’re the one that’s doing all the talking, you’re placing the responsibility of finding common ground on the other person. Whereas taking the lead of the conversation and giving it direction will mean that you are more likely to accomplish your goals while understanding theirs.
Finally, log everything and follow up. Make yourself a nice simple (digital) document where you record the basic information of the people you’ve met. Keep a note of their name, what they do, where you met them, how to contact them and the conversation you had. It won’t take long and you’ll be grateful when you can easily get in touch with them six months down the line for something you had no idea you were going to want. Future you will thank past you for this. And the last thing you should always do is send your new contacts a little note. Keep it short and sweet, mention that is was nice to meet them and remind them of your conversation. Though the results might not be immediate, that personal touch really makes an impression, so when they need someone with your skill set, you’ll be the first one to come to mind.