While I love networking and meeting new people, for some, it can be nerve-racking, which means they don’t end up doing much of it. Once you realize how one-on-one connections can open up doors for you, you begin to seek out more of those opportunities and get out from behind your laptop to make things happen in your business.
Networking is about connecting and being genuine. You want to build trust and be authentic and also see how you can help others. People can always tell when you are in it to get something. You may have to develop a relationship for a while to see something come from it, or it may come instantly. I strongly encourage people to make sure they spend time mapping out the details of their personal or business brand to then know who and where they should be networking. Once you have created what your brand looks like and what your mission is, it’s time to get out there and grow your professional network.
Here are 5 tips you can use today to grow your network.
Set Social Goals
Part of networking is being social. Yes- step away from your laptop, dress the part and get out there. If you don’t join in-person meet-ups or gatherings often, set some goals to get out there more.
Consider tasking yourself with attending a specific number of networking events per month. There will be times when you network more than other times but when you are “all in,” set and meet your goals. When I’m focused on my connections and networking events, I aim for 3+ events per month. When I am more focused on projects and fostering relationships that I currently have, I try to at least attend 1 event or meet-up per month. While you can be social on social media (Facebook groups, Slack, etc,) the value is in making face to face connections.
This leads me to my second tip…
Pick a Platform to Connect
Begin by identifying websites or apps with groups that have similar interests to you. They can be in similar industries or industries that you want to break into. To start, look on top platforms like Linkedin, Facebook Groups or within apps like MeetUp (learn how to grow your Linkedin connections here). As you begin to grow your network, you will meet people that are part of groups that you will want to join and find out about organizations that you can contribute your expertise to.
There are groups that live for creating real time opportunities for their followers like Rising Women Network who encourages local creators to get together in the town they are in every Tuesday to connect and learn from each other. The goal can be to start on social media but then to make real time connections that start relationships and lead to opportunities in your business or professional life.
Know What to Say
You never know when you will have the opportunity to meet someone, pitch them or make a new relationship. Having an elevator pitch ensures that you are taking advantage of a first impression or a moment to connect. Make it as direct as possible and avoid beating around the bush or over selling yourself. Most people can smell BS from a mile away. Make sure you pitch includes the right info so that when they leave, they are interested in hearing more from you which continues the relationship.
Practice a couple of times so that you are natural and not tense or nervous when you deliver it. One of the most important things to include is a reason or a call to action. Just meeting someone is great, being able to share who you are and what you are all about is better. What is even more amazing is having an action that allows the conversation continue or gets the sale or that person to connect you with someone else.
Volunteer and Give Back
This is a great way to stay visible and give back to groups that have helped you. I currently am an alumni ambassador for my university as well as a mentor in a program for college students.
I volunteer for different organizations within the PR and Entertainment fields and meet so many people that way. Through organizations I have been in from the past, I have been asked to speak on panels, moderate panels and provide my expertise to how the organizations run their social media and marketing campaigns.
Can you imagine how many people I have met and networked with over the years? A bunch. These same people have helped me get new jobs, been references for jobs, introduced me to other people and become great friends.
Become Known as a Connector
If you have a large or targeted network, be known for bringing others together. When you aren’t in the room, your reputation will precede you and increase people’s interest in partnering with you. Realize that while networking you may not meet or connect with someone that can help grow your business but instead it may be a great opportunity to connect two people and bring them both an advantage.
As we have always heard, practice makes perfect but really knowing the best places for you to network and sharing what you have to offer and what you are looking for can help you expand your network and help you get to the next level in your business.