There are a lot of people out there who find networking to be a difficult and uncomfortable task. At times, it can feel like a combination of speed dating, ego stroking, auditioning and interviewing. While I have never been a master networker, I feel I am improving at this important skill. A couple weeks ago, I attended a networking seminar and attended two networking events, but I broke a big networking rule: I did not have any business cards to pass out.
While I would never recommend anyone to network without business cards (let me tell you, I felt naked without them), sometimes its better to just do it than use it as an excuse to not attend. I don’t regret attending these events without my business cards for one moment because I met some very interesting people and learned some important things.
For instance, I learned that you can order “free” business cards from VistaPrint or very professional-looking cards from Staples for a minimal price that will be ready for pickup in four hours. I was able to pick the brain of a gentleman who has created his own business that helps organizations utilize new technologies and social media. I spoke with a woman who is starting a graphic design and web design business who shared some tips about the best way to switch my blog to WordPress.
I also met other interesting people including a woman with a similar career background as mine who has transitioned into a successful financial planner. Listening to her story was inspiring and motivating for me. I met a marketing manager who worked for a company that was a client of mine at my first advertising job. We shared some ideas and challenges that are part of that business. I met a gentleman that was seeking feedback about how to market a new product that he was trying to launch. We exchanged ideas and discussed a few strategies that he could use.
Networking is a dance of give and take, but probably the best thing you can do when you network is to listen. Yes, we all may have an agenda or a reason to attend a networking event, but we are there to listen, learn and help.
In addition to listening and having business cards handy to pass out, here are a few additional tips that will make your networking more successful:
- Have a quick 30 or 60 second elevator pitch ready. Ideally this introduction of yourself will state what your reason for attending the meeting (Is it to find a job? Are you looking for information? Are you looking to hire someone?)
- Make sure your name tag hasn’t fallen off or is upside down (like mine was on several occasions). Better yet, write something memorable such as “Joe the Real Estate Guy” on your name tag if you happen to work in real estate.
- Be willing to offer help or any suggestions to people you meet. If you forget something or think of something after your conversation, you can easily shoot them an email later.
Networking can be scary and tiring at times, but whether you have business cards or you are naked (without business cards), when it is done with the right attitude it can be a rewarding experience.
What are some of your favorite networking memories?