According to the Stanford Shyness Clinic, 93 % of American adults dread walking into a room full of people, especially strangers. That is a very high statistic, particularly for people who want to develop business through making connections. It takes a concerted effort to jump the fears and put yourself out there. However, just like public speaking, the more often you commit to attending networking events, the easier it gets. Before working a room, try these tips:
- Do some homework on the event and figure out who is attending before walking in the door. Understanding the organization and its members will help you position yourself favorably.
- Prepare some conversation points. Understand what is going on in the audience’s industry. Have a few talking points ready to use if conversations lull.
- Read name tags and introduce yourself with a sturdy handshake while repeating the person’s name out loud. Ask them where they work, or how they became involved in the organization hosting the event.
- If you can’t bear to go alone, ask someone to attend with you. When you get there, work the room together, introducing one an other along the way. Be very careful to break away and meet new people, though. If you just speak to this one person all night, you have lost the opportunity to work the room.
- Hand out your business card and ask for their cards as well. At the end of the night, jot down notes about conversations you held with each person on the back of their cards. This simple practice will help you send out meaningful follow-up emails and invitations through Linked In.
Attending networking events can be an effective way to meet new people and build upon existing relationships while having some fun. Thoughtful preparation, meaningful discussions and prompt follow-up are all important steps that will help you get the most out of your time. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to new people, chances are that many others in the room are feeling as apprehensive as you are. Finally, attend multiple events put on by an organization. You will slowly get to know more people, making each subsequent event more enjoyable and fruitful.
Social media has become an expected tool to use in enhancing relationships. With close to 75 million members, Linked In has quickly turned into the go-to social networking site. Generally speaking, people are using LinkedIn exclusively for business networking, building connections one invitation at a time. There is also opportunity to create company profiles and discussion groups to build your brand. Here are a few tips for developing your Linked In into a habit:
- Fully complete your profile. Fill in as many components as you can to get to 100% completion. Give professional information so that someone can quickly assess your background and skills.
- Add a photo of yourself. Don’t feel like you need to use a professional headshot, but a business-casual photo will send the message that you are approachable.
- Name your company website and link to it. You are able to link three website, so connect your blog if you have one.
- Add connections consistently. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t about the number of connections you have. It is the way you build your network. Send out invitations using recommendations from LinkedIn, your own contacts or by uploading your contact email list. Conduct searches using your alma mater or former employers as well. When you invite someone, personalize it with a note.
- Insert an RSS feed URL from your wordpress blog if you have one. This will help to populate your profile each time you publish a blog post.
- Use the automatic Twitter feature so that every time you tweet, it becomes a status post on LinkedIn.
- Post a status update frequently with useful information. Every time you post something, either through Twitter or directly via Linked In, people will see your name in their stream.
- Join Groups that you are interested in or are relevant to your work. Don’t only join the groups, but participate in the conversations by posted and answering questions. Don’t ‘sell’ yourself here– the idea is to contribute to the conversation as a thought leader.
- Follow companies that interest you. Especially follow your clients. It is simple– search for the name, open their page and click “follow.”
Using Linked In isn’t difficult, but it takes diligence. Spending a few minutes on a regular basis will help you build your brand by giving you exposure to the people in your network. This helps you stay top of mind– placing you in front of the right people at the right time when an opportunity for business arises. Take Linked In in small steps. Ten minutes a few days a week is a good place to start. You may actually see that it is fun, too!