building relationships with networkingYou’ve been invited to another networking event. How do you feel about it? Do you dread the thought of approaching people, delivering your 30-second elevator speech and making conversation? Are you out of questions to ask once you get an answer to “What do you do?”

For some, networking feels as uncomfortable as making cold calls. Cold calling means contacting potential prospects (i.e., strangers) to see if they can use your product or service. Networking, on the other hand, is supposed to be about getting to know each other. Yet many believe it has turned into another form of cold calling.

Networking has gained a bad reputation because some do the following:

  • Drone on about their business for over 10 minutes.
  • Give away business cards indiscriminately, as if trying to break their previous record.
  • Collect business cards like baseball cards.
  • Send you promotional and newsletter emails without asking if you have any interest.

You’d never do that, right?

Let’s reframe what networking should be, whether done online, at a conference or at a tradeshow. Look at networking as a way to meet people and forge new relationships. Before you go, think “I’m going to meet interesting people and start building relationships.”

Does that erase or ease the anxiety? Does it change your approach to one that makes you more comfortable?

Here’s another way to think about how to make networking work for you. You’re going to an event. How do you want someone to approach you? What do you like? Don’t like? Use the answer to these questions to prepare how you talk to others online and in-person. Yes, that’s “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” in action.

Business cards still matter, but treat them as a tool to extend the relationship and take it the next level. Get to know others first and leave the conversation with a reason for a follow up.

Follow-up ideas:

  • “I have an email newsletter that provides tips about XYZ. May I send it to you?”
  • “You might like the white paper on XYZ. May I email it to you?”
  • “We’re having a free webinar about XYZ where you can learn … May I follow up with the details?”
  • “I’d like to stay in touch. May we connect in social media?”

What bothers you about networking? What other ways can you make networking easier, more enjoyable and more effective?

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