In the Chinese culture, the art of networking is referred to as “Guanxi”. Building relationships among various parties to cooperate and support one another is an essential and critical component to succeeding in business in China. Networking can open many opportunities no matter where you do business. In fact, many U. S. universities are offering courses on networking because they recognize the importance of networking in business. Introducing yourself to a room of strangers can be daunting undertaking to a majority of people, including myself. Before every work conference or after work dinner with the clients, I feel a sense of anxiety come over me. I squirm at the thought of being stuck next a stranger that I have completely nothing in common with. Instead of cringing at the thought of your next work gathering, take notes on the following tips to master the art of networking.
Identify your network: Your network includes all the people you know including friends, family, neighbors, employers/coworkers, former classmates, and members of associations and volunteer groups. To get the hang of networking try to start with people you already know. Also, to expand your network circle, you can research and attend meetings of local organizations and volunteer groups that interest you.
Plan of Action: When attending an event try to plan out who you want to meet. For example when attending an organization meeting for the first time, try introducing yourself to the membership chair or guest speaker. From that point, you may want to request introductions to the people they recommend you meet.
Elevator Speech: Prepare an “elevator speech”, which is a thirty-second pitch about what you do and depending on your audience, how you can benefit clients and potential employers. At the end of your introduction, people should walk away knowing what you do, where you work, and what makes you different from others in the same field.
Graceful Exit: Networking is meeting the right people and ensuring that you are able to work the entire room. If you find that a conversation is at a lull, find a way to leave the person by getting something to drink, saying hi to a colleague, or going to the restroom.
Smooth Conversations: Having a good conversation includes not only talking but also listening. Look at the time talking with the new contact as an opportunity to exchange thoughts and ideas. Also, always ask open-ended questions to learn the most about the person and keep the conversation going. If you are struggling to find conversation starters, Gaylene Pringle, author of Tips, Techniques & Strategies on Referrals, recommends the following networking questions:
Vital Information: Exchanging business cards is a vital way to remember everyone you meet at an event. Business cards provide contact information and offer you a place to jot notes on the back of the card that will help you remember the person.
Mutual Benefits: Don’t just think about what you can get from your contact but think about how you can help each other. When networking, you not only meet new people, but you act as a liaison to refer and bring people together.
Be Yourself: Be genuine and authentic because everyone can see through a phony. Remember the key to networking is to build trust, relationships, and exchange ideas, leads, and suggestions with your contacts.
Susan RoAne, author of Create Your Own Luck, recommends the Ten Commandments of Connecting:
1. Acknowledge the gifts from others, leads, presents, ideas, information, support. Send handwritten thank you notes. WE all want recognition and to be appreciated.
2. Remember, you don’t always need a reason to stay in touch.
3. Be generous… share ideas, thoughts, support, time and laugher with others.
4. Be involved… be seen on the scene.
5. Pick up a tab and treat someone to their lunch or latte!
6. Observe the etiquette of unwritten rules for networking (The Secrets of Savvy Networking, Warner Books).
7. “Good mouth” others pass on praise you have heard.
8. Keep your sources in the loop; let them get the news from you!
9. Follow up, follow up, and follow up in a Timely and Appropriately Persistent (TAP) manner.
10. Have fun! Life is too short and too long to do otherwise.
With these tips you will be prepared to network and work the room at the next big event. And remember, Barry Zweibel, wrote that you should not think of everyone in the room as strangers, but think of the strangers as “a friend waiting to meet your for the very first time. ” Happy networking!!!
Copyright 2005 Modern Latina, Inc.
Linda Castillo is the founder of http://www.ModernLatina.com , a monthly online publication featuring content that is relevant to today’s Latina woman 18-45 years old residing in the United States.