Article first appeared in Entrepreneur Middle East
Networking is often done wrong. A combination of limp handshakes, rushed business cards being given over before you can register what the person’s name is, and then a rehearsed spiel of what their title is and the company they work for. It’s confusing; it’s impersonal and self-effacing. Networking should be an exchange of information to develop professional or social contacts, and at each event, you’ll encounter a different audience. If this is an area you want to focus on to move your career ahead, I’ve got more information on workplace communication available online through my Nudge Academy courses. With that in mind, here are three ways to ensure your networking introduction is polished and beneficial for both you and the person you’re interacting with:
1. Know your audience. Every networking event is different, and by understanding that there are different types of people at each, you can start to create an image of the individuals that you will encounter at each one. Some aspect to think about are: what types of industries do these people might belong to? Are they in the same line of work as you? Do they know much about your skill set? How much of a knowledge gap might there be? By understanding that each event will call for you to communicate with different information, you can better know what information to use and create stronger networks. People don’t remember what you say, but they remember how you made them feel, so don’t belittle them or waste their time by trying to guess who you are or leaving them confused- you’ll be out of their memory quickly!
2. What do you want? Be specific about your objectives. Ask yourself: who do I want to connect with, and who can I serve best? It’s a two-way street, remember. Give back as much as you can by introducing people you think will mutually benefit from each other’s skills and knowledge, follow up with that article you mentioned and send across contact details for the person you recommended. When you do meet someone who could be of benefit to your work, think about what do you want these people to do with your card. Communication is rounded up with a call to action. When you pass on your contact information, tell them exactly what you want them to do with those details. Is it to call me to set up that pitch when your product is ready, or to send me an email with that link to continue this conversation- make your follow-up plans clear.
3. Be clear to establish trust Clarity builds trust, so rehearse your introduction. You need one line explaining who you are, what your title is, what company you are a part of, what industry you are in, and what problems you solve. Give people concrete information, so they can build a mental picture of who you are, not abstract terms that will confuse them and leave you not being remembered by them. If you have a long name or title, slow down when you say these things, so they register better in other people’s minds for the first time. Also remember that half of communication is opening your ears, not your mouth. Ask open questions about the person and their work to be able to create a rapport with them.