Networking is a necessary component to business and there are several ways to go about it successfully. You can attend networking events, connect on social media, or rely on referrals/word of mouth. It’s often common for entrepreneurs to lack in people skills or feel like networking is an overwhelming chore. I spoke with three of the most well connected entrepreneurs in Philly to find out how they’ve mastered the art of professional networking.
Create goals/objectives before the event
Before going to a networking event it’s important to have objectives in mind. Who would you like to talk to? What do you want to get out of this event? How many people would you like to connect with and what’s your strategy after the event?
Connecting with folks on LinkedIn before hand is a good way to be on the lookout during the event. That way you have an image in mind of who you’re looking for as well as a name. Tiffanie Stanard, CEO of Stimulus spoke to us about how she utilizes this tactic.
“I do social media research before I even get to the event. I also try to connect with the event organizer to get the list of attendees. From that list, I will choose 5 to 10 people that I think I can help or that can help me.
Also, applying to be a speaker at the event is a good way to bring you out of your shell. This way, you’re not forced to go up to people but they will come up to you after you speak.”
Going into the event with an objective will give you more of a challenge based approach to things. This way you can focus less on nerves or being anxious and more on the challenge of meeting all the people on your list.
Breaking The Ice
When it comes to breaking the ice while networking the key is not to get inside your head too much. You aren’t the only person who may be nervous or unsure of what to say at these events. Be mindful of that. I spoke with Tiffany Yau of Fulphil about her methods of ice breaking at events. She claims it’s easy: Just find the food!
“Whenever there’s an event with food the first thing I do is go straight to that table. Food is an ultimate connector of people. I love to make conversation with the people next to me about the food or drinks and start another conversation from that interaction.”
We also reached out to Luke Butler of Comcast NBC Universal LIFT Labs,to get insight on what he does to break the ice in these scenarios. He is adamant that networking should be transparent, but not transactional. So for him, breaking the ice shouldn’t feel awkward, especially if you’re just being yourself.
“I enjoy meeting new people from diverse backgrounds without any agenda. The best connections are the ones formed organically.
Networking can be stressful so go up to people that you know first. Don’t be afraid to just jump into a conversation and introduce yourself.”
Following up is quite possibly the most important aspect of networking, simply because of the impression it leaves. When you meet someone at an event, be sure to follow up the next day or following day. If you wait too long, the interaction is not as fresh on either person’s mind.
There are several ways to follow up after meeting someone. You can send them a handwritten note through the mail, send them an email, or LinkedIn message. You should include where you met them at and one memorable thing you learned about them during the interaction.
For Tiffanie, she likes to connect on LinkedIn then schedule coffee or a meeting. Luke loves to send articles or book suggestions that he thinks the person might be interested in. Tiffany prefers to use Twitter to reach out because she’s most active there. Regardless of the outlet you choose remembering to follow up is important. You never know if that interaction will lead to your next customer, next referral, or next friend.