Networking today doesn’t have to involve executives dressed in power suits pressing the flesh and asking “who are you with?” Today’s networkers make it look so easy, you wouldn’t even know they’re conducting business.
This isn’t your father’s networking, and that’s a good thing.
Back in the day, I hated networking events. I never knew if I was dressed right or if my elevator pitch was getting out at the right floor. There was so much schmoozing and everyone but me seemed to know the right buzzwords and jargons. Thankfully, all that has changed. Networking nowadays doesn’t look a thing like it did ten or twenty years ago (and thank goodness for that.)
Here are a few tips for networking in the social media age.
1. Throw Away the Elevator Pitch
Others have disagreed, but I firmly believe that no one likes to be cornered in an elevator and pitched to. I get that elevator is a metaphor but even getting past that, no one wants to be cornered only to receive a well rehearsed nutshell version of the other person’s career. I liken it to walking in the mall. When I’m going about my day I don’t want someone to stop me to pitch fragrances and massage chairs. I don’t want to break my stride in order to receive a kitchen upgrade spiel. People don’t like sales pitches, so the trick is to pitch without sounding like you’re pitching at all.
2. Have a Conversation
Instead of rapid firing your details, have a chat. Talk about the food, the event, the weather, for goodness sakes, but don’t bore the other guy to tears with details of your latest acquisition or employee of the month award. Simply chat. If you’re there for business, you’ll eventually get to the business, but how can you possibly talk about how you can benefit the other person without knowing anything about him? Strike up a conversation and take it from there. Determine whether this person has the potential to be a client, employer, colleague, contact or friend.
3. Don’t Be a Salesman
Ok, so you’ve been talking with someone and you know you can do good things with this person. You have a 50 – 50 chance of making a good impression. If you start a pitch it can go either way. Instead try this, “I like what you’re doing and I have some ideas for taking it to a whole other level. I’d like to give you my card so we can talk about it once we’re back at our desks.” Sometimes, the other person will invite you to have coffee right away, sometimes he’ll invite you to call him in a few days and sometimes it’ll fizzle, but at least you tried. I’ve learned that most people appreciate when a job hunter or sales person isn’t all “in your face” about what they’re doing. Try a subtle approach and see if that doesn’t work better.
4. Put Away the Business Cards – Until it’s Time to Take Them Out
How many business cards do you have that you don’t even look at? Me too. We always leave networking events with a pocket full of cards and half the time we have no clue who the person is. I have news for you, business cards are important – but not everyone wants yours. Instead of walking up to someone and giving out a card, wait a bit. See how the conversation is going. If it looks like you can do business, offer a card upon parting. Tell the other party you’d like to keep in touch. If you’re not a good fit for each other, shake hands and move on. You can still follow each other on Twitter, but if you’re never going to call or do business, keep the card to yourself.
It’s all in the delivery…
I always like to put myself in the other person’s shoes. How would I like the sales pitch approach? Do I like obvious pitches? No. No, I don’t. Think about how you would like to be approached and turn that around to work for your benefit.
So how do you network? Do you pitch or just let the conversation take you where it takes you? What methods have been successful?