Not sure how to network? It helps if you know how to dance.

August 16, 2009 – 2:45 pm | by Matt Ackerson

A friend recently asked me for some tips on how to get the most out of an upcoming networking event. I thought I could give her the best, most complete answer if I took the time to formulate my thoughts into a article.

The thought of “networking” can be a scary thought if you haven’t done it before or only have a vague idea of what it means. It might conjure up thoughts of your first middle school dance where there were all these people around, but no one thought you were cool enough to dance with. Of course, networking at conference or a local event has nothing to do with the awkwardness of adolescence right? Well, there are some similarities so lets walk through it.

Step #1: Know what to you want

If believe you will get the most out of the “dance” by sitting on the sidelines and being a wallflower then that’s fine, do it, see what happens. But remember the point of a networking event is to meet people just like the point of a dance is to dance. So if you don’t dance why bother leaving home?

Let’s assume what you want is to generate leads for new job opportunities. Now get more specific than that: what sort of job are you looking for? Does geographic location outweigh the importance or whatever type of job it is? What type of job do you NOT want? What are some examples?

Defining what you want is the first step to networking success.

Step #2: Know how you’re going to get what you want

After you know what you want, you have to understand the tactics you must undertake in order to attain it. For example, one of the most important first steps you can take is to find out if there is a list of the names of individuals who will be at the event. By doing some research in advance on who will be in attendance you target 2-3 individuals who you presume have the resources to give you what you want or who can introduce you to someone who can.

Without such a list at your disposal your ship isn’t sunk, but you will have to keep focused on what you concluded from step one. To do so, prepare 2 or 3 introductory questions in advance that will help you strike up conversation with different attendees at the event. The questions should be specific enough that anyone answering them will be sure to give you the pertinent information you need to determine if the conversation is worth your time to continue having. If not, be polite, look for an exit, and then move along to the next person.

There are other fish in the sea and realize you don’t have to slow-dance with everyone.

If you meet someone who can help you, make it clear that you are interested in learning more and that they have the power to help you. Sometimes, it can be as simple as making sure to get that point across. Otherwise be prepared to show how you can help them in return, what is the benefit to them helping you? Specifically what do you have to offer?

Step #3: Act to get what you want

After you know what you want and how you intend to get it, the last step is to actually do it. Be prepared for rejection and be prepared to reject.

As you seek to “bust a move,” remember the importance of being polite, and the supreme importance of listening to other people. If you are perceptive you will be able to quickly determine what it is the other person wants. At that moment you should be thinking in your head of someone or something you know that could help that person. If you have an answer, exchange contact information and then seek to make a positive exit to the conversation. The assumption is this example is that although you could help them, that individual is unable to help you (at least, at the moment, and that should be part of the long term motivation for you to help them).

Recognize that not everyone you meet can help you and vise versa. Meeting new people is great for the fun of it, but stay focused on your goal as well.

Last Number

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Matt, I’ve got a problem with some of this advice–much of it completely self-interested. I don’t want to be like that.”

The truth is it is and it isn’t. It is in the sense that you are actively looking out for yourself and your best interests. It isn’t in the sense that you will (presumably) add value where you can and then continue along in your search for someone else where your interests are mutually aligned.

Going back to the dance example, if you’re in a crowd or people there’s bound to be a diversity of personality and physical attributes. Some you will find attractive enough to dance a number or two with, others not so much.

In life we will temporarily plug ourselves into any number of potential relationships with others. The chance for a successful outcome to those interactions is dependent on whether or not there is some sort of mutually aligned interest for both parties.

Tags:

Related Posts:

Post a Comment