Networking is a critically important business skill. We all network in some way, even if it is just saying hello at the coffee machine, or nodding a silent greeting to the convenience store clerk when buying gas. It matters to people when you remember them, and take to the time to acknowledge them.
There is great value in a network. As the old saying goes. you never know how the next person you meet may change your life. People know this, and want to make their networks work for them, yet many struggle at doing so.
Some people are great at building a Rolodex and working it. Other people never forget a name and a face. Working a room comes naturally to a lucky few, but many people struggle when it comes to developing new contacts, or forming relationships in new business sectors. I include myself in that group. I stink at cold calls and making meaningless small talk, which are the first steps in building a networking relationship. I am much better at networking when I know something about the people I am meeting or the event I am attending than I am when it is a cold room. I’ve had to learn how to get around this issue in order to be an effective networker.
Become acquainted before the meeting
Here’s one method I use that’s worked really well to help me overcome my own shortcomings.
I’m a big proponent of social media tools. I use them all the time. They allow me to form relationships with people on-line before we meet in person. When we do meet, it is more like becoming more acquainted than it is like meeting someone for the first time. This is especially effective if you have a professional group membership or some other interest in common with these folks.
It doesn’t always work that way though, right? Sometimes you need to break into a new space, or need to attend a conference where you don’t know anyone. Believe it or not, there are tools available to help you get around this. I use them all the time. Here are few of them I really like. You’ll need to poke around a little on each of these sites, and will need to create an account for them to be really helpful. All of them are great tools for finding meetings you may want to attend, or for finding out if you know anyone that is planning to attend. They are also great tools for creating your own groups or meeting events.
4 Tools For Networking
- Plancast – is a great way to discover events, manage your social calendars or meet people with similar interests.
- Meetup - is the world’s largest network of local groups. Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face.
- Eventbrite – helps people discover events that match their passions, and let’s them share the events they’re creating or joining, bringing more people together around the world.
- Lanyrd - lets you see what your friends are going to or speaking at, find conferences near you or browse conferences by topic.
All of these tools have mobile apps as well. All will help you network more effectively if you incorporate them into your personal toolkit. Happy connecting!!
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