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Posted July 18, 2007 by

How to make networking experience more pleasant and productive

When you begin networking for the first time it can be a nerve-racking experience and it is natural. Not many people are comfortable talking to complete strangers, let alone asking for their assistance. Below are some tips on HOW to make a networking experience more pleasant and productive:
1. If you are not at ease approaching people, introducing yourself and ask for advice then don’t do it. Instead start a conversation about the person you approached. Here how it may work:
Scenario A: a person’s badge (at most of networking events everyone wears a badge) says “Mary Smith”. You approach her and say: “Hi Mary! So what do you do? (Where do you work?)
Scenario B: a person’s badge says: “Mary Smith. XYY Company”. Your first line should be: “Hi Mary! I’ve never heard of XYY. What does your company do?”
Scenario C: a person’s badge says : “Mary Smith. Coca-Cola”. Your opening line should be: “Hi Mary! What department are you with at Coca-Cola?”
People LOVE talking about themselves. And they will appreciate your interest in them so they will definitely ask you back about you, what you do and what sort of help you are looking for.
2. When you listen to a person I mean LISTEN, do not just wait for your turn to talk. Ask additional questions. Be genuinely interested. The better you will know the person the easier it will be for your to build rapport with him/her.
3. When asked what help you need be very clear and specific. Your interlocutor does not know your circumstances so he/she will act based only on what you say.
4. If you have resumes or handbills with you it is good but it will be better if you have a business card too. Business cards are easier to handle and people are more likely to keep them. Ideally you should have a website address on you business card which will take a person to your resume on-line in case your paper copy is lost (which is not unusual).
5. ALWAYS follow-up. This is one of the most important rules of networking. Send a “thank you” note and any additional information about yourself. In the end ask a person how you could be of assistance to him/her.
6. If you agreed on a time-line to re-connect and the person didn’t come back to you re-establish relationship yourself after 7-10 days (write another follow-up e-mail or give him a call).
If you still are not comfortable with open networking start with so-called “structured” networking. During such event all participants are seated around the table with a facilitator and everyone is given 2 minutes to introduce oneself and pass around resumes, business cards, etc. Thus you have a chance to be introduced to about 10 people and then follow-up with the ones you feel you might have a connection or who may help you.