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The secrets of good networking

Networking is an essential part of building business connections, but how do you do it? Find out the best ways to go about it.

Networking is an essential part of building business connections, but how do you do it? Find out the best ways to go about it.

This week I began my life as a graduate student. As part of this process I met around three hundred other students, some of whom have valuable experience in my industry. Here’s how I got to networking, and what I learned:

1. Use their name

Conferences, events and courses all have one thing in common. They’re an overwhelming blur of new faces and names, and it’s inevitable that you won’t remember everyone you meet. Because of the nature of these events people will quickly gauge if they have in interest in you.

So make it personal!

I learned a useful tip this week when it comes to remembering names. Ask the people you meet for theirs, and then use it three times in the next few minutes of conversation. It’ll make them feel valuable, listened to, and more likely to remember you.

Using names is a great way to quickly break ice.

2. Relax

What do your friends and family like about you? Can you crack a great pun? Do you know random facts about the Sahara desert? Are you easy-going?

Networking events can tempt people into putting a false self forward. They want to make a great impression, so they spend longer on their appearance, rehearse introductions and try to seem as professional as possible. And they end up acting like robots.

This week I had the exact same conversation with about one hundred people. They’d all dressed well, and they all asked me about my undergraduate degree, my job experience and my internships. They all left me bored and indifferent.

The people who stuck out were the ones who were natural. They made jokes, they shared personal anecdotes, and one even made a comment about the robot army we’d seemingly stumbled into.

If you want to make a great impression, relax. Be yourself. Introduce yourself at functions the same way you would to new friends.

Networking events can tempt people into putting a false self forward. They want to make a great impression, so they spend longer on their appearance, rehearse introductions and try to seem as professional as possible. And they end up acting like robots. - tweet

3. Engage

I’ve met my fair share of people who introduce themselves to me and then launch into summaries of their lives.

By the end of our abrupt conversations I’m left with a business card and a sour taste in my mouth.

I end up knowing that they did their internships at x, y and z, they know so-and-so, they’ve had x amount of success through their start up, and that they’ve spent two whole weeks learning directly under some special businessman.

And while I sometimes do learn interesting things about these people, they never end up learning anything about me. Every time I try to speak, I feel like I’m interrupting someone on a podium.

If you’re trying to make a good first impression and network, I suggest you start a conversation, not a lecture.

It’s understandable that you might be nervous, but make sure you ask plenty of questions and actively engage the person you’re speaking with.

If you want to be truly successful at networking events, think about how you can benefit the people you're meeting. What can you teach them? Who can you connect them with? If they know you’re useful, they’re more likely to stay in touch with you!

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Remember, networking isn’t a one-sided affair; it’s for them too. So give people an opportunity to tell you about themselves.

4. Help them!

Why are you at the networking event? You want to meet people, right? You want to make business connections, new friends, and learn information that could help you.

If you want to be truly successful, flip the tables. How can you help the people in the room with you? If they know you’re useful, they’re more likely to stay in touch with you!

You don’t need to hand them everything on a platter, but listen to them and offer advice and help if you’re qualified and you can. For instance, you might advise someone on a great app for time management, or a website you’ve used to hire an employee. You can also put people in touch with others if you think they could benefit from each other. If you’ve met someone who’s applying for a job a friend has successfully applied for in the past, offer to link them up.

You can also share information that’s less business orientated; like great restaurants in the area and good places to get a drink.

Then, at the end of your conversation, hand them your business card. It should be your last impression, not your first.

The most important part of networking is to not overthink it.

Be friendly and open, let the conversation flow, ask questions, engage, and help if you can.

Lena Klein

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