Networking is either a fabulous way to increase your work and business connections or the quickest means of making yourself feel like a failure. People who network successfully know how to make connections pay off for them. Those who struggle with this important life skill can benefit by implementing a few key strategies taken from the playbooks of people who understand the game.
1. Have a Gameplan
Sure, you go to parties to have fun, and that should be one of your goals. Your other goal should be gathering and organizing information about the people you meet there. This is one way that your STARTplanner will help you. Use it to keep track of where you go, whom you meet, details about their interests and any other tidbits that might help you connect with them later.
2. Ask Questions
Networking often means introducing yourself to strangers without much preamble. While you might think that the best way to make an impression is to give everyone as much information about yourself as possible on your first meeting, this can actually backfire. Partiers might interpret your self-focused holding forth as conceit or boasting. A better approach is to ask questions and get others to tell you about themselves. Remember the details that they share about their lives and work in order to make note of them as soon as you get the opportunity and while the conversation is still fresh in your mind. Learning about people's work, family and leisure interests will tell you much about how best to interact with them in the future. Having a systematic method for retrieving facts about individuals will impress them next time you share conversation.
3. Find Out How You Can Help Them
That's right, your goal is to see what you can do for others that will make you valuable in their eyes. If you hope to discover ways that people can help you further your goals, you must be willing to make yourself useful to them as well. Mutual benefit is key. Even if someone doesn't seem to have anything to offer, never forget that when you score a new contact, you are potentially meeting everyone they know in the bargain. Make yourself available to help them in order to open up a wider network by way of referrals.
4. Facilitate Introductions
Review your STARTplanner prior to every function to refresh your memory on the information you have stored there for anyone you know who might be in attendance. Keep this knowledge in mind as you work the room and make a point to introduce others for their mutual benefit. This value-added action will lead acquaintances to view you in a positive light if they are ever in a position to assist you.
Successful networking means more than showing up and hoping for the best. The payoff comes from planning, organizing and implementing your strategy for building lasting connections.