The Art of Networking

Being able to network effectively takes skill. Read on to learn about the best tricks to make yourself memorable.

Young professionals and veterans alike have always struggled with one aspect of the business world: networking. In crowds of people who do what you do, it is vital that you learn to stand apart from the crowd in social settings. In a good way, of course!

The Approach
When you go up to someone, make sure to have a plan. Some people thrive under impromptu conversations. If this isn’t you, however, don’t risk an awkward encounter. The mistake most people make is standing idly by, waiting for a moment to be noticed by the person they wish to talk to. Stop!

Come prepared with general questions to break the ice. Show initiative and introduce yourself first. At the start of the conversation you want to search for commonalities. This includes asking questions like: Where are you from originally?, How did you get started with your business?, or Do you have any kids? These questions establish a relationship and can ease the panic of talking to someone you don’t know.

The next step is to transition to more professional questions. This includes asking about their current projects, ideal customers, and business goals. Showing interest in them provides reassurance that you care about them as a person and not just referrals. Networking is a two-way street: if you help someone out, they will help you in return.

As you finish the conversation, be sure to exchange business cards. This will give you their contact information and vice versa.

The Follow-Up
The follow-up is the most important part of networking. The momentum you built in person must be continued. Send the people you met a nice email depicting how much the encounter meant to you. If you really want to stand out from all the others, during the initial approach listen for any problem they might be having within their business, then when you follow up you can provide some insight on how they can resolve it. Showing you were paying attention, makes the difference.

Networking is an art that takes years to master. The main point is to develop every relationship you make, don’t just let them go by the wayside. Better business contacts increase the probability that you will receive more exposure in the community.
Are you up-to-date on your networking tools?

These days it takes more than fancy business cards to stand out of the crowd. You need to be savvy about the different tools that you can be using to propel your business and yourself.

LinkedIn. If you don’t have a profile, make one today. LinkedIn is a professional’s dream when it comes to networking. This social platform keeps it professional and allows you to showcase your experience by uploading your resume. Your network can grow rapidly. You can add co-workers, friends, and professionals you meet. The people in your network can also introduce you to people in their network. Connecting this way gives you a point of reference and makes it easier to start conversations. The new groups feature allows you to join groups that interest you and start participating in their forums. LinkedIn takes networking to the next level.

Facebook. For connecting with clients and potential customers, facebook is the best tool. It is hard to meet people who are not already using facebook. By going to where they are, you can reach them easier. Facebook is great for keeping it casual and communicating instantly. Share pictures and special announcements on your wall.

Twitter. The fastest growing platform is Twiiter. For fast messages, up to 140 characters, it is easy to spread the word. On Twitter, you can start conversations with people from all over the world just by knowing their Twitter handle. Most people have their profiles set up to their phone as well, so as far as fastest social tool, Twitter is it.

Networking Groups. Where else are business professionals looking to build relationships, network, and give referrals? Networking groups, like PNG, provide great environments for small business owners and professionals alike. If you find the right group, you will have fun and build lasting friends. Together these groups help each individual succeed. There is nothing like good-old-fashioned face-to-face interacting.

Promotional Items. To really stand out from the crowd, use promotional items to inform about your brand. Currently, you can print your logo on just about anything from coffee mugs to stress balls, sunglasses to golf tees. Everyone loves little gifts that they can use everyday. It is to your advantage that they have these because it is free advertising for you and heightens your reputation in the eyes of the receiver; win, win.

Business Cards. Okay, so business cards never go out of style. Make sure to develop crisp, easy-to-read cards. If they are too cluttered or the font is too small, this does not represent you well. Simple is always best, however if you have a cool design in mind, don’t be afraid to try it out. Make sure to put only essential information on there. As an added bonus, include that you are connected on LinkedIn, Twitter, facebook, and if you have a personal website, add it too!

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