We moved here 14 years ago this month to start our own business, and since then, many of my professional associates have told me: “You’re a great networker.”
The problem 14 years ago was that I didn’t really know what a “great networker” was.
All I knew was, under the conditions of our entrepreneurs’ visa we could only generate income through our business. We couldn’t become employees. I had to therefore build relationships to build business. I realized this was called “networking.” If I didn’t network, I’d not work.
Reflecting upon the last 14 years, I realized that most of it has come from networking at professional associations. We’re members of the SCV Chamber of Commerce; the Professionals in Human Resources Association and the Association for Talent Development. The associations you are in or should be in are perhaps different to us, but either way, these top tips can still apply.
I didn’t learn these tips in a book — these are just principles about human behavior that I’ve found simply do work. I hope they help you.
- “Be interested, not interesting.”
Have an authentic curiosity in other people; their story and their business. Really try and understand them and think how you can help make connections for them.
Could you use their products or services? Do you know anyone who could? The Law of Reciprocity written on the hearts of people is an amazing principle.
- “Listen twice as much as you speak.”
We have two ears and one mouth. At networking events, try and listen twice as much as you speak. Most people love the sound of their own voice. I have found that if you listen carefully, you might be able to help someone. I have also found that if you demonstrate attentive listening, they are then more apt to really tune in when it’s your turn to speak.
- “Look for an opportunity to serve within the organization.”
Professional associations are always looking for people to step up and serve in some capacity within the association. I have found that when you serve alongside people, something wonderful happens: you both are putting your shoulder to the plough for a common cause. As a result, you build better and more meaningful professional relationships. By serving, you will likely be recognized for your contributions on the association’s website or program materials, which is free advertising!
- “Do what you say you’re going to do.”
I love living in Los Angeles County but I have found that most people within business associations don’t do what they say they’re going to do. When they say, “I’ll call you” or “Let’s do lunch” or “We should get together” or “I’ll email,” most people don’t mean it. I have found having a reputation for follow-through sets you apart.
- “Be present.”
When you’re at the event, be present. Really listen to the announcements and consider what you can learn from the speaker if there’s a formal presentation being given.
I have observed that most people are not present but instead are present somewhere else on their phones. Be present — people notice.
- “Remember names.”
Make a conscious effort to remember people’s names — not only because it’s courteous but also so you can say “hello” to that person at a future event. I heard it said that: “Strangers are just friends we haven’t yet met.”
- “Send a note.”
As soon as I get back to the office, I’ll always process any business cards I collected. I’ll enter them into our contact database. I’ll send a brief note (usually by email) to say how much I enjoyed meeting them and make some connection on what we discussed. Nowadays, I’ll always reach out to connect with them on LinkedIn, too.
I hope these seven simple points are good reminders of common sense — my observation has been that common sense is not commonly practiced. Upon reflection, I can see these seven points are all “others-focused” and, interestingly, I’ve found when we look out for the needs of others, our needs tend to be met, too.