Networking Tips

Many people think that when I was the President and CEO of an international professional association, networking would be easy for me. It wasn’t. I find networking very difficult.

I have been fortunate that because of my position, when I attended professional events such as chapter meetings or the Building Business Capability (BBC) Conference, people would approach me to talk —they know who I am so I can avoid the sometimes awkward situation of “breaking the ice”.

When I think about the topic of networking I am reminded of a woman I know who is a master networker—she really knows how to work a room! It is fascinating to see how she can effortlessly join a group of people already in conversation, introduce herself to each of them, and collect and distribute business cards before slipping away and seamlessly entering another group. I’ve often wondered what makes her so good at this, and I finally understood.

It’s confidence.

She has confidence in herself, in her knowledge, and the value she has to contribute. Also, confidence in knowing she is truly interested in people and making connections.

Now some people are naturally shy and uncomfortable in social situations. Some people may think they have nothing important or interesting to say. One networking trick to keep in mind is that to be more interesting, you need to be more interested. Ask people questions and listen to the answers—really listen, don’t just think about what you’re going to say next. Have you ever noticed that people who are considered great conversationalists are in fact really good listeners? There’s a reason for that—people want to be heard and appreciate someone who listens to them.

Here are some other tips you can try at your next networking event

Treat a networking event as a project.

  1. Define the purpose of the event. Why are you participating in this particular event and what is the value to you? What do you want to get out of it?
  2. Identify your objectives. What are your measures of success?
  3. Think about your opening line. Craft your ice breaker questions—from a BA perspective these are your interview questions. The people you meet are stakeholders of your career.

Don’t discount anyone you meet.

  1. Every meeting is an opportunity. Just because someone doesn’t seem like the right fit and may not be aligned to the goals you set for yourself at the event, it doesn’t mean there is not an opportunity there. People know people and you never who someone knows.
  2. Think about what you can do for others. Don’t just think about what people can do for you; pay attention to other people’s needs and who in your network may be able to help them. What goes around comes around, and besides, helping people is so rewarding!
  3. Knowledge is power. Talking to people in a different field can give you a new perspective on your own profession and career. It never hurts to learn, as something new you learn today could be relevant tomorrow.

Follow-up!

  1. Follow through is key. When you receive a business card, be sure to follow-up with the person. It can be as simple as an email saying it was great to meet them, and send a link to an article, video or website you were discussing.
  2. Keep it short. Don’t be too formal or send a long note. People are busy and appreciate a brief email that gets right to the point.
  3. Update your LinkedIn and other online profiles. People you meet do check you out online, so if you haven’t look at your LinkedIn or other social networking profiles in a while, schedule a half an hour to review and update them today.

How can you practice networking? Go to your IIBA chapter meetings, industry events or conferences. Just be yourself, be confident and remember that everyone has something to share and can add value.

 

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