More Networking Advice

Effective Business Networking By Sophie-Charlotte Moatti

Businesses have a love-hate relationship with networking: It takes time and effort, but it can also beget some great rewards. Here are three ways to keep your company on top of its networking game. Business networking is essentially marketing ourselves to our professional community.

In my 10+ years in Silicon Valley, I’ve given dozens of talks on networking and leadership to Stanford University graduate students and to business executives at the Watermark Leadership Conference and Lee Hecht Harrison Executive Workshops, just to name a few. Most of the questions I typically get fall in two categories: “I need to network more, but I hate doing it. How do I make it work for me?” and “I love networking but it takes too much time, how do I prioritize?”

Networking is an art, not a science, and it’s hard to measure—or even define—its effectiveness. So we often have a love-hate relationship with it. Thankfully, there are ways to network effectively. Here are best practices for three common situations: at an event, online, and with mentors.

Best practice #1: never leave an event without a second date.

Sharing our point of view about current trends in our industry at an event could get us this new client, or that next job, or nothing but glory. But when given the opportunity, most of us will welcome the exposure and give it our best shot. The effectiveness of offline networking is hard to measure, so how do we know when we’ve succeeded? Never leave without a second date.

When going to an event, it can be intimidating to enter a room full of professionals we don’t know. The most effective way to get a second date is to sample the crowd quickly until we find someone datable. To get started, we use simple ice breakers such as asking someone why they chose to come to the event or what they hope to get out of it. If the person isn’t a fit, we proceed to move on politely and repeat until we find someone we’re interested in. We may or may not have the chance to spend as much time with that person as we’d like, and that’s whom we ask on a second date.

Best practice #2: commit a few hours a week to social networking.

One hour a week: This is the smallest amount of time any of us needs to spend consuming social networks: scanning business news almost every morning, attending an industry conference about once a year, and responding to an invitation to connect about once a month. Remember to look people up on social networks before meeting them (LinkedIn + Twitter + their company website at a minimum) and to send a brief follow up note afterward.

Four hours a week: In this amount of time, we can contribute actively to our business community with social networking activities like sharing relevant business articles every day, organizing a monthly networking event or arranging for a speaker to come to our workplace, and initiating a weekly 1:1 networking lunch.

One day a week: By making this commitment to social networking, we set out to significantly raise our profile in our business community to that of a thought leader by: writing one opinion piece a month and getting it published on prominent industry blogs, giving talks monthly at industry events, and making connections within our network that have the potential to turn into win-win business partnerships.

Best practice #3: nurture 5 to 10 strategic relationships.

Integrating online and offline networking can be an effective way to build tight relationships with a select group of professionals, who could become our mentors. This approach is most effective when limited to the 5 to 10 strategic relationships we care to cultivate. Focus on these and be guilt-free about the other 500+ we could also nurture.

What matters most in building relationship is the frequency and quality of the interaction, not the length of time spent. To maximize frequency, make sure to keep in touch regularly by forwarding a relevant article or a quick update on some new career development. If concerned about spamming them, ask if they found the article/note useful. As for quality, the professionals we pick as our champions are likely busy, so will be grateful to us if we save them time. Before reaching out to them, be clear about what to ask them. Then decide whether face time is needed, or if an email, or a phone call will do the job.

Whether we spend one, four, or eight hours a week networking, we can make this time productive and feel good about our networking. So, please keep in touch!

—Sophie-Charlotte Moatti

Resume Writers’ Meeting in Phoenix, AZ

This is the second time in two years that I have flown to AZ to attend this group’s meeting. I learned a lot both times. The panelists were recruiters: one for blue collar workers, one in the fingerprint industry, and one who recruited executives and CEOs.

The writers were of varied ages and genders, and it was quite interesting to share stories about our businesses. I have been in business almost 40 years, but you must never stop learning!!

Thank you for the invitation!!

NETWORKING ADVICE

Top networking tips for small businesses

In business, it’s not who you are, it’s who you know. And the best way of getting to know new people that could help your business grow is by attending networking events. But networking and saying the right things don’t come easy to everyone. Read our networking tips to learn how to communicate at your best.

Before the event

1. Find the right event

There are a number of different networking events out there to choose from, including seminars, speed networking, breakfast meetings and business clubs. Events that happen regularly, rather than one off events, are more likely to result in ongoing business relationships. To find networking events near to you, use a website like Findnetworkingevents.com or Google “business networking clubs [your town]”.

2. Plan for your networking event

Feeling nervous? Rest assured there will be plenty of others at any networking event who feel exactly the same way. The best way to combat nerves is to be thoroughly prepared.

Firstly, decide what you want to get out of it. Do you want to make twenty new contacts or one real quality contact? Are you looking for a new supplier, an investor, a mentor or new customers? Your reasons for attending should define how you approach the meeting and help you judge whether it has been a success.

Pro tip: Ask if you can get a list of attendees before the event to see if there are any organisations you want to speak to.

It’s important to look professional, so check that you’ve you got enough business cards and something to take notes with. Also remember to take a bottle of water in case no refreshments are provided.

3. Create a 30-second pitch for your business

Time is precious at networking meetings, so you should be able to get across the most important information about your business, including your unique selling point, in a short space of time. Practice introducing yourself with family and colleagues beforehand, until you feel confident with your pitch.

4. Take a colleague

If you’re really worried about going it alone you could always take a colleague with you, but that doesn’t mean you should stick by each other’s sides for the whole event. The benefit of taking a colleague is that you can cover twice as much ground, but be careful not to speak to the same people.

At the event

5. Arrive early

Getting to the venue early gives you the opportunity to compose yourself, collect your name badge, and get your business cards and other promotional materials in order. It also gives you the opportunity to strike up conversations early. There is nothing worse than being the last person to turn up to a room full of people already deep in discussion.

6. Be confident

Let’s face it; standing in a room full of strangers is always going to be nerve-wracking. It can be quite tempting to stand quietly in the corner and wait for someone to come to you, but for the best results you will need to be proactive. After all, the point of networking is to talk to other people about what you do! Remember to make eye contact with people and, most importantly, smile.

7. Take a genuine interest in others

Once in a conversation, listen to others and show interest. Do not start looking around the room at others trying to spot someone more interesting. This will only get you a reputation of being rude and ignorant. Listen to them exactly how you would like them to listen to you. By listening and helping others, they are more likely to help you. Remember: ‘givers gain’.

8. Remember, networking is about building new contacts

Do not spend lots of time at an event in the company of people you already know. By all means, have a quick chat with them (to build the relationship further), but spend the majority of your time getting to know new contacts.

9. Do not over-sell at a networking event

Networking is NOT selling. Networking is about building relationships, getting to know, like and trust others. By all means, talk about your products/services, as you are there to raise the profile of your business, but sandwich ‘business talk’ between ‘small talk’.

10. Bring people standing alone into your conversation

They will be grateful to you for doing so, as you have taken them away from the uncomfortable position of standing on their own. Your kind act could eventually lead you to some new business via the person you helped in their moment of need.

When you arrive at an event, look out for those standing on their own, as they will often be the most open to meeting new people.

11. Do not discount people

Never assume that certain types of business people won’t know someone who may be interested in your products or services. Who do they know? Do they know your ‘perfect’ contact or lead?

12. Know when to move on

It’s the thing that every networker dreads; being stuck with the same person throughout the whole event. If there is potential for a working relationship there, organise to meet at a later date and move on. If there isn’t, be polite and exchange business cards, you never know when they might become a useful contact in the future.

13. Take notes

Networking events can be a case of information overload, so you should make short notes at the first available opportunity after the meeting. Try not to make notes whilst you’re talking to someone as you should be paying them your undivided attention.

14. Take the opportunity to present

Some networking meetings offer the opportunity to present to the group. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and experience to a room full of potential customers and referrers, but don’t use it as a sales pitch.

After the event

15. Make sure you follow up with your new contacts

Follow up on new contacts as soon as possible with a short email or a quick phone call. If you’ve said you’ll do something, make sure you do it. By not doing so, you will undo all the good work you did at the event.

To summarize, networking is NOT about selling but about building new relationships based on trust. People buy from people that they like and trust, so it is important to be yourself and be genuine at all times. You should think of networking as a long term strategy for building profitable relationships, rather than a quick win.