It seems as if everybody is into networking these days but only a handful of people know how to network effectively. Don't miss out on golden opportunities to become acquainted with those who can help you personally and professionally. Follow my list and you'll be utilizing all those fantastic new contacts in no time!
1. Look utterly presentable! Being smartly dressed will go a long way in attracting people to you. Wearing a nice suit is not enough. Make sure you pay attention to the finishing touches such as your shoes (are they polished?), your nails (are they short and clean for men and manicured for ladies). Is your hair clean and tidy? In short, how you present yourself is how people will treat and respond to you.
2. Do not pass out your business cards to just anyone. Although I am sure you want to publicise your business or maybe just yourself (!), others will view this as being a little too eager. Hold back. Get to know others and only then suggest that you exchange details if you feel that there is a rapport.
3. Don't try to work the room. Contrary to popular belief, working the room can work against you. It's the law of diminishing returns. About two years ago I went to a networking function with a friend of mine whom I'll call Ravi. Before long, Ravi had met everyone in the room. However, I held back and noticed a lady reading a French daily paper. I approached her as I am a Francophile and we got on so well we chatted the entire evening. Ravi was disappointed in me as he always thought of me as a "great networker". I tried to explain that it is not the quantity but the quality. I have since become incredibly good friends with that lovely fellow Francophile and we have gone to many cultural functions and made some wonderful friends together. Ravi on the other hand, never heard or stayed in touch with one of those people with whom he had met that first evening.
4. Don't limit yourself to business networking. When we think of networking we think of business events and functions. However, don't discount other opportunities such as cultural associations and even volunteering. If you come from a particular ethnic heritage, think about joining local associations which will enable you to meet others like yourself. Volunteering is also a great way to meet people from all walks of life and some of the best friends and business contacts I have made have been through volunteer work. It also makes you feel better that you are contributing to society and not just thinking about how the next person can help you.
5. Prepare to stay in touch. While it is nice meeting new people at networking events, it's pointless if you do not follow up. Make a point of contacting people whom you met within a day or two either by phone or email. I was particularly impressed by a young banker who sent me his business card with a short note by snail mail (he had just run out of cards when I had met him). Suggest to your newfound networking buddies a small group lunch and ask them to bring along a friend. Just keep the momentum going.
Following my 5 Fantastic Ways To Network Effectively will make you not only better at networking, it will attract more people to you as well. As they say, it is a two way street.
Best of luck and happy networking!
By M. Tan
Executive Director of Yumcha.com.au
Australia's Premier Networking Site for Asian Professionals