You know the saying – “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Building a strong network is vital to your success. And, I’d like to note that a strong network of 800 friends on Facebook doesn’t count when it comes to business. A firm handshake and an in-person conversation still dominate when it comes to networking despite our culture’s dependence on iPhones and social media.
So how do you transform what would be an awkward interaction at an after-hours event into a professional connection? It’s all about the networking, baby. In my book, there are definite “Do’s and Don’ts” that separate the LinkedIn all stars from the rookies. Test yourself: how many “Do’s and Don’ts” do you practice?
DO: Travel alone.
You are much more approachable and far less intimidating when you are a party of one. You are also forced to talk to others instead of hanging back with your colleagues. Don’t worry, you’ll see them tomorrow morning at the coffee machine. Get out and meet people now.
DON’T: Chew gum.
Gum is great for oral hygiene but not so great for having a conversation. Nothing says “don’t talk to me” like the cow-grazing-on-grass look. No matter how much you try to hide it, people will notice it. Lose the Orbit and grab a mint instead.
DO: Make eye contact, offer a firm handshake and commit to remembering their name.
A good trick is to repeat their name before saying your own. “Hi David, my name is…” Plus, it starts the conversation with a sign that you are really paying attention to what they are saying. Wipe off that sweaty palm before extending your hand and go for it.
DON’T: Talk about the weather.
You won’t create any lasting impressions by demonstrating your ability to look out the window. This is Columbus and we all know the weather is terrible. It’s always too hot, too cold, raining, snowing or just generally Ohio outside. So here’s a mind-blowing idea: start the conversation by asking “What brought you here tonight?” It’s almost too easy.
DO: Be genuine.
It’s important to remember that you won’t hit it off with everyone you meet. But your best you is always better than whoever you are pretending to be. If you click, that’s great. If not, be polite until the conversation ends and then say you have to go to the bathroom. (And, if I’ve done that to you at an event, please know that I actually had to use the restroom.)
DON’T: Dominate the conversation.
If you notice that you’re doing most of the talking, consider that might be a reason why your network needs some work. Your goal is to learn more about others, not to read your online dating profile out loud. This is a good time to practice the 80/20 Rule. And if you don’t know what that is, there’s a good chance you’ve been breaking it.
DO: FOLLOW UP!
Cement your newly forged relationship with some sort of follow-up – a LinkedIn connection, an email, or a phone call. This isn’t a competition to collect the most business cards, but to build quality connections with people that provide a business advantage. The follow up brings it all home.
Columbus is an amazing city and there really isn’t a better place to build a network. As you’ve probably already noticed, Columbus is actually a big city in a small town. So, forget the “6 Degrees to Kevin Bacon.” Here, it’s 3 degrees to Urban Meyer! The city is your oyster. Now get out there and meet people!