Over the course of the past year and a half I have attempted to refine my skills at networking, a skill which is not inherited by all. During this time I have learned many lessons about effective networking. The start of this began with reading “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferazzi. This book highlights all of the key attributes of a successful connector. Connectors are not the overly aggressive guy that you meet at an event who is running around handing out his (or her) business card to everyone and their mother. Connectors are the people that actually create meaningful relationships with others. A few successful traits that I’ve learned recently are listed below. While this is not a comprehensive list, it does cover many of the important aspects.
- Start blogging - Blogging has magnified my reach in ways unimagined. By letting people know about your blog, you enable yourself to spend more time listening to what others have to say when meeting them while stilling maintaining your voice. When you follow-up with people include a link to your blog to increase the likelihood that the individual will check it out. Your blog helps to illustrate that you are an expert in your field. If you want to magnify your reach significantly, then I highly suggest creating a blog. There is nothing else like it. Through responding to people that comment on your blog, overtime you can build new relationships with people that share similar interests.
- Get involved - You have to be a participant in your community if you plan on meeting other people. By attending networking events, fundraisers, volunteer events, etc, you are increasing your visibility and increasing the likelihood of meeting other interesting people. Make sure that the majority of events you attend, you actually have an interest in. If you are interested in the event, then most likely you will find people that you are interested in as well. Once you’ve become active try out hosting an event. It provides great experience in understanding the amount of effort that it takes to organize an event as well as a great opportunity to connect with more people.
- Finding the “on-switch” - When you walk into a room, you need to have a presence. This presence can be effectively turned on and turned off. Presence is created a number of ways, but primarily by standing straight and looking around the room when you walk in. Additional characteristics include smiling and having a positive charisma. The are all things that can be learned, but none of these things can be falsified easily. Through practice, you will eventually find your “on-switch”.
- How can I help you, not how can you help me - Connecting is about helping other people. The second that you start trying to figure out how they can help you is the moment that you have stopped genuinely connecting. Connecting is about actually building relationships. This comes through being a good friend to others. Friends are there for support and encouragement, not for manipulation.
- Set goals - This is a habit that I often overlook. When you connect with people, there should be a reason. While spending time meeting people for the fun of it can be a good lesson in personal communication skills, you should set goals for people that you are trying to meet.
- Follow-up - This is one of the most important habits of successful connectors. If you don’t follow-up then it’s as if you never met the person. Always follow-up, and follow-up soon after you meet the person.
- Be genuinely interested in others - Genuine interest cannot be falsified. Wanting to connect with others is ultimately being a good friend. Real relationships are formed through connecting. When you attend events, look to build a few genuine relationships rather than a bunch of false ones. Don’t be that guy (or girl) running around the event, furiously passing out business cards. That person is not interested in others as much as they are in them self. If you don’t want to build strong bonds with new people, then do not aspire to becoming a great connector.