Our Favorite Networking Tips
Recently, the Caster blog had an awesome piece penned by account coordinator Ashley Collazo on the differences between ‘crafting the message’ and ‘building the relationship’ and examined which approach secures the coverage our clients expect out of their partnership with us. While both are important, my take is, building the relationship is often the best approach and a route which can lead to multiple successes vs. just the one from a perfectly crafted message. To read what the other smart folks around the Caster office had to say on the subject, you should check out that blog but for this installment, I wanted to talk about building relationships in greater depth and networking — an activity you either really enjoy, or dread.
I was inspired to write this blog as I sat on Amtrak train 173 from Kingston down to New York City where I spent my time attending a business awards ceremony and then CE Week which is, to put it as they do on their website, “the epicenter for innovation, emerging trends and insight and building connections in the North American technology space.” As a PR firm with an incredible track record in the CE space, it’s an excellent show to attend, walk, mingle and network at.
Networking gets a bad rap yet, as professionals, it is a critical skill and an activity that’s not going anywhere. While I do not personally feel that it is possible to “master” networking for this installment of the Caster blog, I was inspired to share some of my favorite tips for networking and what you can do at these events to make them a little more enjoyable and maybe get a little more out of them.
Social > Your Business Card
Let’s start with a big one and for some, a tough one. While it’s important to have your business card on you at networking events, in an increasingly online world, your social media account plays a bigger role than your business card could ever play. Think about the business cards you’ve collected from your own experience. Chances are, you have a lot of them and secondarily, they’re likely stuffed somewhere in your desk. The goal here isn’t to “collect’em all” but rather connect with and then engage with those you meet along the way, what better place to do that than your social media networks which admit it, you check far more often than your cache of business cards.
Socially Leverage the Event
An individual or a company is likely hosting the networking event you’re attending, and chances are, they’ve put some thought into how they want it to run. This includes scheduled sessions, speakers, maybe even a hashtag that’s specific to the event. You can start networking well before the event takes place by leveraging these details on your social media networks. Put out a post before the event takes place mentioning how excited you are to attend, tag the organizers, use the hashtag if there is one. This is easy to do, can be done in minutes and, puts you ahead of the game. Anyone thinking to do the same will see your post and that sets you up as someone they might want to engage with prior to the event or seek you out specifically during the event.
Go Early / Arrive on Time
The general urge is to show up a couple of minutes late to these types of events because you “don’t want to be the only one there” but I am telling you actually, you do. If you’re one of the first folks there, you catch the event before larger groups have formed and you can more easily mingle with the smaller number of folks who are there or, greet new people as they arrive. It can be much easier to network starting from the smaller number and working your way up than arriving and being faced with a massive crowd you need to break into.
Keep it Light / Limit ‘Shop Talk’
You’re there to build relationships and it can be difficult to build those by cutting directly to the chase and into your pitch. If you keep your exchange light and informal, you increase your chances of forming a fruitful relationship in the future. You’re trying to get the conversation started, not have the whole thing during a single event. If you’re asked specifically about what you do or services you offer, do be prepared with a succinct response so that the question does not appear to catch you off guard.
Networking After the Networking
Don’t let all those potential new relationships just fall off the wagon once the event is done. If you did collect a bunch of business cards, find those you had conversations with and at the very least, connect with them on LinkedIn. Depending on how many social networks you manage for yourself, Twitter could be a viable option whereas Facebook or Instagram is likely way too personal and not recommended. Don’t forget email. Send over a quick note to follow up, let them know how great it was to meet them and even if they do not need your company or services right away, let them know to reach out if they need anything you might be able to help with. That simple gesture can go a long way in building a bond over time that might result in you winning some new business.
What are some of your tried and true networking tips and tricks? Do you love networking events or hate them? Do you agree with the tips I have outlined above or have something to add? Connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn to share your thoughts on networking. Don’t forget to follow Caster Communications on Twitter and LinkedIn as well to see more content like this pop up in your social feeds.