Networking is an important element to both expanding business development and building your personal brand; however, the power of who you know won’t get you anywhere if you don’t develop the right kinds of relationships. For instance, handing out business cards at a cocktail party may seem like a great way to get your name out there, but the truth is that your card is most likely headed straight for the bottom of someone’s bag or, even worse, straight into the trash. If you can’t supplement your name with a face, a story or at least some sort of personal element, the connection is likely worthless. So how do you connect with others in the industry in a meaningful way?
1. Stand out. Is your appearance unusual or somehow memorable? Great. If not, think of other ways to capture your audience’s attention and leave a lasting impression. Did you recently take a trip to China? Do you have a funny anecdote from the day that fits into the conversation? Insert a bit of your personality–what makes you an interesting and unique individual–into your talk to separate yourself from all the business interactions your audience is likely to experience that day.
2. Think outside the box. Networking doesn’t have to take place at an event specifically meant for it. Like volunteering? Try working the registration desk at an event within your industry. Are you a great cook? Get to know contacts within your industry by throwing a dinner party or hosting a casual lunch. The possibilities are endless, and outside of a stuffy “networking event,” people are more likely to open up.
3. Keep it personal. A connection whose name and job are about as deep as your friendship goes won’t do either of you any good. Keep in mind that the best networking produces lasting connections, even friendships, that will benefit both parties. If both you and your connection have kids, why not set up a play date at a local park? Often, including both business-related and non-business-related activities in your relationships with colleagues is far more effective in the quest towards making meaningful contacts. After all, at the heart of every networking interaction should be a human connection that transcends mere business dealings.
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