So, you have a bunch of business cards from networking events. They seem to pile up every time you meet more people. You don’t even remember most of the people you met. What was the purpose of all these meetings?
To get the most out of these connections, you must continue the conversations. This assumes, of course, that the other person is willing to do so as well. True networking is about building relationships, not just having five minutes of small talk before you move on to the next person. Such quick meetings are a total waste of time. People just don’t remember you unless you have some unique characteristic or are referred by someone they know.
Therefore, it is important to engage directly, and often.
But before that you must listen. Try and find out your contacts’ interests. Always ask the question: how can I help you? Or, be prepared to state how you could be helpful.
The objective is to engage on common interests. Otherwise, the conversations will be awkward and go nowhere. Even though you may never address one’s issues, you could always provide related information, like web links, or an enlightening related-story, or contacts, or suggestions. Ask probing questions to stimulate their thinking. See where the conversation goes. They will remember.
Invariably as comfort and trust begins to develop, you will find that people would be interested in you. Such interest may come from your direct contact, and also from those they know. And, you will begin to expand your network and make new friends.
Networking takes time and is an ongoing process. You cannot wake up one day and say that today I am going to network. You must commit to the process and make it a habit. Expand your reach bit by bit and you will see your network of relationships evolve.
Also, think strategically. Build different networks for different purposes.
It is not always possible to have a physical meeting, a meal, or coffee with people. Therefore, find a platform that helps you:
- Reach a wide population,
- Match with people on shared interest,
- Engage face-to-face with others virtually, and
- Build different networks.
No one said that you have to be in the same location as the person you are speaking with. Actually, the best networks are those that transcend geography.
Remember, networking is all about constantly building positive relationships, and about give and take. All take and no give is a zero-sum game!