Networking is a crucial part of any type of business-to-business relationship and takes many different forms. The most notable is the golf course. I dread this form due to the fact that I am a terrible golfer, but can hold my own. Others consist of happy hours (which are more up my ally), meet-and-greets, as well as a plethora of other activities.
Now something to remember right off the bat is that the venue or event does not matter: it's all about what you say and how you react. People get so focused on where they are going to be or what they are going to do rather than focusing on what's important.
Here, I share five tips that will help you become a networking master at any event -- even on the golf course.
1.) Two ears, one mouth: listen twice as much as you talk
It is very hard not to own a conversation and talk about yourself constantly. You do not want to be labeled as “THAT PERSON” at a networking event. Instead, let that person do the talking. This helps on a couple different levels. You are seen as a person who listens, is not overpowering, and is approachable, as well as you gather information about the person you are connecting with. Store that info and use it at a different event. “Hey Pam, great to see you again. How are the kids? Did Kendra make the debate team?” This also helps strengthen the relationship further down the line.
2.) Lost? Ask questions
Have you ever been backed into a networking corner and have NOTHING to talk about? We all have. A trick I use is to ask questions. It is simple, easy, and can be applied to any situation. Ask about their position, what they do for fun, what the best part of their job is, etc. This helps you to try and find some common ground to chat about, as well as gives you a chance to think about what you should chat about next. Also, it helps reinforce Tip #1.
3.) DON’T TALK ABOUT THE WEATHER!!!
Weather is a universal networking conversational crutch. When it is brought up, it is the proverbial slap to the face when talking with someone. If a person starts talking about the weather to me, I take it as their way of not wanting to not have a genuine conversation about trying to connect with me and need an out from the convo. When I hear weather come up, I wrap it up in the next 2-3 sentences.
4.) When you burn bridges, you burn opportunities
People say not to burn bridges, because you never know what the future holds. Granted, it is hard to take the high road when you know you are right, but it is something we all need to practice. Hell, I know I do not take that high road all the time, but it is something I try to work on more personally. Next time you are in a situation like that, simply take a breather, count to ten, and end on a high note.
5.) It's not WHAT you know, it's WHO you know
I currently work at a financial firm, and I do not have a financial background. I was given the opportunity to work here because 10 years ago C.H. Dean needed a few extra people to help with some filing. From filing, I started to help with a systems conversation, from there I began doing administrative work and started to learn the business more and more. This led me to where I am today. I had that opportunity because I knew the person who did the hiring for interns. People can teach you what you need to know on the job, but getting your foot in the door is the hardest part -- which is where networking comes into play.