Creating Connections: How to Network Effectively
Photo by MichaÅ‚ Parzuchowski on Unsplash
I enjoy meeting new people. I know there are some who dread going into new situations where they don’t know anyone, but I find it fascinating. I believe life’s riches come from the people you meet on your journey, and tools like Facebook, LinkedIn or Whatsapp make keeping in touch with one another easier.
Aside from meeting new people, I do believe that networking is a powerful professional tool. A good friend of mine introduced me to someone recently who she described as “your sort of person.” And she was right because meeting him was not only very interesting, but also unexpectedly quite helpful. I now invest in his business, Howdy (an intelligent networking app that I highly recommend), and he later introduced me to someone who introduced me to someone else, and after all these introductions, last week I profiled Bawah Island (my labour of love) at Our Oceans Summit in Malta. Ocean conservation and environmentally consciousness are topics I’m hugely passionate about.
But it’s not about what these “connections” have enabled me to do, it’s about the interactions along the way. People’s stories. How they got to where they are and where they want to go next is fascinating to me. And why not help one another along the way? Isn’t that what we’re meant to do?
If you’re interested in networking, but aren’t really sure how to go about it, I’ve put together this list of networking hacks to help. (Those of you who enjoy meeting people, I’d be interested to hear your tips.)
1. Talk to everyone (when possible)
Everyone is unique and has an interesting story to tell. You can learn a lot from just actively listening to people.
If you’re attending a networking event for professional purposes, I recommend spending about thirty minutes researching the other attendees. LinkedIn and even Facebook make this easy, as does a simple Google search.
2. Set a time limit
If you’re going to talk to everyone, then you can’t spend all your time with the first person you meet. I generally try to restrict myself to a certain amount of time at functions and events. I like to arrive early so that I can have a few deeper conversations before the event gets into full swing. When I’m hosting the event, I like to stand near the door so I can direct attendees to other people I think they may enjoy meeting.
3. Be realistic
There will be occasions when you won’t get to everyone in the room and you can’t stay until the event ends. At those times, be realistic. Identify those you want to speak with. Make sure that number is limited and focus on the quality of the interaction (not the quantity).
4. Be thoughtful
Whether I met someone for a quick coffee or had a random encounter in the street or at a networking event, I always try to write a meaningful follow-up note.
With so many forms of electronic communication available, it can be an easy thing to do. The trick is to pick the fastest one for yourself (so you actually do it) or the one that you think the person will read. Some people I text. Some people I email. And I generally always connect on LinkedIn with everyone.
At the end of the day, thoughtfulness and authenticity are the fabrics that form meaningful relationships, not a system of checklists and processes. Perhaps the best advice of all is to just be yourself.