5 Actionable Ways to Improve Networking Skills

August 11, 2015

8:00 am

Networking is an essential fuel that accelerates your success as an entrepreneur.  By going offline you get a chance to learn from the best in your niche, establish your own authority, and make tons of valuable contacts that will come in handy on this or that occasion.

However, many of us are not quite outgoing types and often have no idea how to strike a conversation with a stranger or maintain long-lasting relationships. The next 5 tips have been used to improve networking skills so you will never feel numb at another event:

1. Throw away the “working” component

The best networking comes from genuine relationships. Approach a person you’d like to connect with treat and them like a potential new friend, rather than business contact. Stop “putting on a face” and pretending you are genuinely interested in their work when you just want a quick answer to your question.

Just talk, make jokes, find common interests outside business, and be a good listener. Make it about them first, not you. Let the conversation happen organically. Both of you will have a better time and you could make a longer lasting impression.

2. Focus on quality, not quantity

Focus on developing and maintaining quality relationships with just a few people, rather than making conversations with at least 50 and forgetting their names within a week. In this case, less is more.

As Amy Bebbington from UK Models puts it: “I attend at least a dozen industry events per year. At first, I was trying to meet and exchange cards with as many people as possible, befriending them on LinkedIn and Twitter. However, I’ve noticed that as I tried to connect with them later on, I was bound to do the whole introduction thing all over again via email. I changed the strategy and determined 1-2 people in advance, whom I’d like to connect with. That’s how I’ve found 3 new irreplaceable members to our team, plus the best business mentor I could dream of”.

3. Always think how you can help

Before attending another event, sit down and make a list of all your strengths and skills that could be valuable to someone else. Think of the ways you can help people you plan to network with. Bring value – not just words. They will remember your help and always would be willing to return the favor.

4. Master followups

First of all, install CamCard – a nifty app that will scan the business card, save all the information to your phone or get Evernote Premium to instantly connect with your contacts on Linkedin as well.

Secondly, set special reminders on your calendar to follow up your prospects on different occasions – in a week after the event or just at some random date with no agenda.

In a world of just take take take, simply showing up and asking how things are or how can I help you is a layering stone to building valuable connections.

5. Prepare a personal elevator pitch in advance

Just a 30-60 second speech telling who you are, what it is you are passionate about, what your business is all about and why you are at this event today. Be witty, include a funny fact about yourself to break the ice and be more memorable.

Practice it a few times in front of the mirror till it comes natural, remember all the previous tips, and get to the event. Happy networking!

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Dianna is a former ESL teacher and World Teach volunteer, currently living in France. She's slightly addicted to apps and viral media trends and helps different companies with product localization and content strategies. You can tweet her at @dilabrien