Networking… it’s become a buzzword in public relations and elsewhere. Last week, the Harvard Business Review published an article on “The Right (and Wrong) Way to Network,” and it got me thinking about my own networking experiences. While the article had some good points, here are a few more tips to ensure success before, during and after you make a new connection.
1. Don’t turn a networking opportunity into a sales pitch
Before going to any type of networking event or meeting, I try to remind myself to leave my business hat at the door. As someone who works for a public relations agency, new business is important, but it’s also important to not mistake a networking opportunity for a business opportunity. While a networking opportunity can lead to future business, putting the cart before the horse can leave a bad taste in people’s mouths and cost you in the end.
2. Carry business cards
We’ve all been there… You meet someone new, reach in your pocket for a card and come up empty. While some may argue that business cards are a thing of the past, I’d say it’s just the opposite. There’s a reason why we still carry cards, even in today’s digital age. Chances are you’re not going to give your phone number to someone you just met, and if you’re at a conference it’s hard to remember everyone. For me, business cards are a great way to keep the conversation going beyond the initial meeting. They also allow you to easily reach out in the future.
3. Follow up
Whether you connect with someone in person, over the phone or via Skype, ALWAYS follow up. Regardless of the reason for connecting, following up reinforces the initial meeting and establishes credibility. I’m usually more likely to stay in contact with someone who takes the time to follow up. It shows that they’re genuine and willing to go the extra mile. A follow up also gives an opportunity to continue the original discussion and look for ways to benefit each other down the line.
Remember, while not always at the forefront of everyone’s mind, your actions (right or wrong) say a lot about your personal brand and the brands you represent. Networking can create rewarding opportunities beyond the next piece of business, but as with all things in life, there are very rarely shortcuts. Networking can seem like a long process, but the personal relationships you develop can make it worth it in the end.