The people who think networking is only about getting a bunch of business cards are wrong; it goes much deeper than that. It’s about quality, not quantity. Networking works best when you form a personal connection with new acquaintances. And, like anything else in the business world, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it. So, to help you make this connection, here are the Top 10 Most Successful Traits of Networking.
1. Use F.O.R.M.
It can be terrifying and stressful to talk to someone at a networking event. You know nothing about them, and unlike other social settings, everyone already knows why you’re there. So, how do you start the conversation? You use F.O.R.M. F.O.R.M. is an acronym for family, organization, recreation and motivation. People LOVE talking about themselves, and when they get a chance to do so these are the topics they enjoying talking about the most.
- Family – Do you have any kids? Are you originally from (city)?
- Organization – In college I did (sports team or organization), how about you?
- Recreation – What do you do for fun?
- Motivation – What do you think helped you get to where you are today?
Note: Make sure when you’re asking these questions you really listen to their response. For one, it’s easy to tell when someone’s not interested in what you have to say. Two, actually listening can open other avenues of conversation and you might realize that you have more in common with the person than you originally thought.
2. Be a Connector
Some people make the mistake and think that networking is all about them. Wrong. Networking is about your network. When you meet someone and exchange business cards don’t only think of how they can help you, but also consider how you can help them. It’s always better to be a giver than a taker. Plus, they’re more likely to do something for you in the end if they know you’re the type of person who’s willing to help.
3. Be Confident
Think about it. What is one of the most common traits the opposite sex looks for in their significant other? That’s right, confidence. Confidence not only attracts the opposite sex, it also makes people interested in what you have to say. It tells them that you believe in yourself. But, be careful, there’s an awfully fine line between confidence and arrogance. The main difference being that one can draw people in and the other pushes people away.
4. Quality not Quantity
Networking events are not a race. It’s not a competition to see who can get the most business cards in the shortest amount of time. It’s an opportunity to make connections. You can’t make a genuine connection with someone during a quick five minute conversation about the Phillies. You’ve got to stay and chat. Get to know the person you want to connect with as more than just a tool to be used in the advancement of your career.
5. Be a Storyteller
One of the best ways to start a conversation, or let people know something about you is to tell a story. A story can tell the listener a lot about your personality and how you present yourself. But, make sure you keep it relevant. The fact that you never got the toy you always wanted for Christmas is not relevant. The fact that you never got the toy you always wanted for Christmas so you saved up your birthday money and weekly allowance until you could afford it IS relevant. Where do they differ? The latter example tells me something positive about your natural work ethic. You know how to save money and you’re willing to work to get what you want. The other, well it’s cute. But, that’s about it.
6. Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
Fact, no one who goes to these networking events is ever comfortable. Everyone prefers staying within their comfort zone. However, the only way you’re going to meet new people is if you leave yours. Be comfortable with yourself and what you have to offer in conversation and professionally.
7. Repeat and Remember
When someone tells you their name, repeat it. First and last. A great tip, if they give your their business card write a brief reminder to yourself on what they were wearing and what was discussed. It makes further correspondence more personal.
8. Talk to new people.
It’s ok to go to networking events with people you know. Just don’t stay with them the whole time. Branch out. Doing this is not only smart, it’s strategic. If you come with someone else you’re potentially doubling the amount of people that each of you meet. This means that one of you could potentially meet a great contact for the other.
9. Be yourself
The most important factor is to always be you. People can tell when you aren’t being you and usually aren’t as receptive because of it. If you are being you and they aren’t receptive, well, they wouldn’t be a very good contact for you anyways.
10. Be a giver, not a taker.
One of the most significant parts of networking that people tend to forget is the giving. You want to make sure your relationship with contact isn’t all about how they can help you in your career, also think about how you can help them. In fact, don’t just think about it. Tell them. Introduce them to others in your network that you think they should know.
To summarize: Leave the mindless chatter alone. No one cares about the weather. See if you have anything in common other than your obvious enjoyment of advertising. If you connect to someone on a more personal level they’re more likely to remember you in the future.