The convenience of technology has changed the way we interact with each other, both professionally and personally. Our mobile data plans are far more important than the number of minutes we have each month. Most of us spend much more time emailing, texting, Tweeting and ‘liking’ than we do chatting on the phone or in person.
At the same time, workplaces are facing shrinking travel and professional development budgets, which restrict the number of conferences and industry networking events we can attend each year.
This can mean less face-to-face contact, which is where the greatest opportunity to make a deeper connection with people lies.
The one thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the importance of networking. It’s critical on a professional and personal level. And it’s a skill – like any other – that needs to be performed on a regular basis to see benefits and improvement.
In advance of AVConnect 2015, AudienceView’s annual North American users conference, I’ve crowdsourced some valuable networking tips from people in my network. They come from current colleagues, industry peers, friends I’ve connected with on Twitter and people from my ‘past lives.’
After collecting these tips, six themes bubbled to the surface:
- Be prepared.
- Be genuine, honest and sincere.
- Listen more, talk less.
- Add value to the relationship.
- Make deeper, more personal connections.
- Have a system that tracks your interactions (notes on business cards, spreadsheet, etc.).
Valuable Networking Tips
“I really believe that you can find a shared experience with anyone at any event. It can be an activity such as sharing a drink, a moment such as sharing a laugh, or an interest such as baseball. Always be authentic and natural and don’t be afraid to approach first, often people are uncomfortable at these types of events and appreciate you starting the conversation.”
– Genevieve Jacques, Director of Customer Services at AudienceView
“The key to successful networking is building authentic relationships. Find a personal connection you both have, like a love for social media or the Indianapolis Colts, and go from there. Whether you’re interacting with someone in the real or digital world, by simply creating that relationship people will be more prone to help you.”
– Kacy Capobres, Social Media Director at Moorehead Communications
“Professional networking is about finding genuine connections. I try to learn more about someone’s life beyond work until we find something shared between us. People remember each other when they think of the non-professional connections you share whether it is being from same hometown, sharing in sleepless night of having young kids – or finding passion in the same hobby or sports team.”
– Garry Golden, Academically Trained Futurist
“Have a purpose. When participating in a meeting or event, imagine, in advance, what you want to learn and who holds that knowledge. Once you’re at the event identify those people, briefly introduce yourself, then ask them to share what they’ve learned. Use open ended questions starting with ‘what’ or ‘how’ to get them engaged, then enjoy the conversation!”
– Jena Hoffman, President & CEO at International Ticketing Association (INTIX)
“When networking, remember to think about ways to add value to a relationship. It’s not just about collecting names for your LinkedIn connections. Listen closely and consider multiple ways you can help that person now or in the future. Share good content, make introductions, and ultimately become someone they appreciate and trust.”
– Russell Scibetti, Vice President of Product Strategy at KORE Software and Sports Business Blogger
“Networking is about building relationships and the best way to start off on the right foot is by being yourself. Treat your new connections like you would treat your own friendships and build genuine rapport. Ask thoughtful questions not only to get to know someone, but to understand how you can help them. Keep in mind that you may not be able to help someone directly, but you probably know someone in your network that can. It’s not only about growing your own network, but sharing yours as well. Finally, if you’ve had a great conversation with someone, follow up after the event and stay in touch! Networking is all about developing and maintaining relationships.”
– Melissa Raquid, Manager, Human Resources & Recruiting at AudienceView
“Don’t beg for a Twitter follow. Interact and engage with others in a meaningful way and the ‘networking’ will take care of itself.”
– Eli Langer, Social Media Producer at CNBC
“Bring business cards with you! Set a goal to hand out a number of cards to people who you have never met. If you still have the business cards at the end of the conference, you haven’t talked enough to people outside your existing network.”
– Sara Chebishev, Relationship Manager at AudienceView
“Always be interested in the person you are talking to. Ask how you can help them. Find out something about them that is personal. If you only care about what you get, you’ll likely end up with nothing. But helping others can pay off with a great friendship or relationship and you never know what might happen when you are there for someone else.”
– Troy Kirby, Director of Ticket Operations at UC Davis
“My mantra on networking is… when in-person networking, ask people something they normally wouldn’t be asked – go deeper right away and see what happens. When reaching out to people to network, let them know clearly you’re intentions on the first contact. People don’t respond to, “I’d like to connect,” as much as they respond to something like, “I am very interested in the way you have done recent projects and want to see if any of it is translatable into my business.”
– Andrew Foxwell, Co-Founder and CEO at Foxwell Digital
“I hate the word networking as it implies that you want something. I prefer to think of it as an engagement between two people and just having a conversation. To me it is an opportunity to give and in the giving I always get something back. I try to make the moment meaningful and authentic by being myself. I look people in the eyes and I actually try to spend more time listening than talking. I try to go outside my industry and to never ever consider someone irrelevant but rather to look for the similarities versus the differences. Bottom line, I try to always MEAN IT and in that I also must nurture and care for my relationships and my contacts.”
– Maureen Andersen, Vice President of Arts & Entertainment at AudienceView
“Make sure to record two to three things you touched on with any new contacts and get their business card. A week later, send a note mentioning specifics in the conversation, then follow it all up with a LinkedIn invite.”
– April Moon, Senior Marketing and Communications Manager at The Canadian Stage Company
Maureen Andersen, April Moon and Amy Constantine Kline at an INTIX networking event (photo credit: INTIX)
“I am a big believer in Bob Beaudine’s Power of Who. You must really build mutually beneficial relationships and help people who can in turn connect you with others who can open doors for you. But keep in mind it is all about reciprocity – be a giver as well as a taker.”
– Dr. Bill Sutton, Founding Director, Sport & Entertainment MBA//MS Graduate Program, University of South Florida & Principal, Bill Sutton & Associates
“Keep the conversation two-sided. You won’t learn anything if one person does all the talking. Answer questions openly and honestly, but also ask the right questions to get the other person telling their story. I find I get a lot of great information both from the things we have in common and the things we don’t.”
– Heather McLaren, Relationship Manager at AudienceView
“Always be networking. You never know who you will run into or who people know. Be genuine, honest and sincere. Remember, the key is to develop solid, long-term relationships built on trust.”
– Kathryn Chappetto, Director, Partnership Strategy at Women’s Tennis Association
“To expand your network, get involved in activities outside of work. Joining a charity is the best way to meet C-level executives because most established charity boards recruit these kinds of professionals. Once you’ve made a connection, always follow up and let them know how nice it was to meet them. And then catalogue all your contacts and make notes about them – spouses name, number of kids, interests, etc. Finally, stick your neck out – no one is ever going to meet you if you don’t extend your hand.”
– Michael Burns, Vice President, Corporate Development at AudienceView
With all this valuable advice, I’d like to leave you with one last tip – my own:
Don’t wait until you need something to reach out to your network. When you don’t need anything at all and just want to say hello, the email, phone call or Facebook message is always very well received. I encourage you to interact with five people in your network each month and just ask them how life’s treating them. It will make them feel good and will keep you well connected.