Mastering the Art of Networking: Unleashing the Power of Face-to-Face and Digital Connections
Importance of networking in personal and professional growth
Networking has endless potential. You can get a job, learn about an activity, or meet a new friend, among many other benefits. Networking helps you to open yourself to new opportunities and experiences.
You can use it for personal growth. There is always value in a conversation. It could be a word, an idea, or a gesture that wakes you up or enlightens something in you.
You can use it for professional growth. You might learn about a job opportunity or a program that will enhance your skills, or you might meet someone who will lead you to your next significant role.
Overview of different networking approaches
There are many ways to network. It can be face-to-face or done online. But one thing you might want to have clear is your pitch and branding. If you do not know how to introduce yourself, that is fine. You can learn by doing. Keep going to events, connecting on LinkedIn, and updating your SWOT.
Face-to-face networking at events
Face-to-face networking provides multiple benefits, such as Personal Connection, Relationship Building, and Enhanced Networking Opportunities.
Face-to-face events can be overwhelming. Some days, you will feel confident and ready to mingle; others, you will feel shy and clumsy. In any case, take it step-by-step and do not overwhelm yourself.
Things to consider and prepare for a face-to-face event:
I. Choosing the suitable events to attend
Be strategic; do not go to everything and anything. Make a list and plan to attend those events that work for your brand and purpose.
a. Industry-specific conferences and trade shows
b. Professional association meetings
c. Networking events and meetups
II. Preparing for face-to-face networking
A. Setting clear goals and objectives: Keep your target low; connect with 3-4 people max.
B. Researching attendees and speakers: If you know the guest list, you can review LinkedIn profiles and research which interests you have in common. If you do not know who is attending, do not worry; meet those who look approachable. More on how to start the conversation next.
C. Preparing an elevator pitch and business cards:
Idea of a pitch: Your name + role title (or what you want to do) + the purpose of that role (the why and/or solution that provides).
Keep it short; a reasonable estimate is up to 2 lines.
Business card exchange is usually in the middle of the conversation or at the end when you say goodbye, never at the beginning.
III. Effective networking strategies at events
A. Approaching and initiating conversations: Keep conversations easy, fun, and short. Introduce yourself, then ask for their name, followed by a "nice to meet you, NAME". The name trick will help you to remember the name after. If you are in an event with a topic, you can start the conversation with something related to it or talk about the event itself.
What did you think about the (topic discussed/about to be addressed)?
I love this wine! I have always wanted to take a tasting workshop. What do you think about the wine?
Usually, those with a glass in hand (and no food) or waiting in line will be ready to start a conversation. Do not get in the way of something or a door; you will be interrupted and distracted.
B. Active listening and engaging in meaningful conversations: Focus on the person you have in front. Forget who is arriving or leaving. Repeat the name of your audience from time to time. It will help you to connect on a deeper level and show you care. Remember to keep the exchange as a conversation and not as an interview. This is an opportunity for both of you to have a good and memorable time; make it easy.
C. Following up and nurturing relationships post-event: Find them on LinkedIn and send them a connection request. You must do this the next day. If the event was on a Friday, wait for Monday, but no later than that.
Example of connection request:
Hi NAME, it was a pleasure meeting you at the EVENT NAME. Let's stay in touch. Warmly, YOUR NAME.
Hi NAME, it was a pleasure meeting you and discussed about TOPIC. Let's stay in touch. Warmly, YOUR NAME.
Digital networking through platforms like LinkedIn
Online networking can help you expand your network faster, but you need to be sharp and precise in your message, usually 300 characters.
Digital networking provides multiple benefits, such as Global Reach, Efficiency and Convenience, and Access to Specialised Communities.
Things to consider and prepare before start sending out connection requests:
I. Understanding the power of LinkedIn for professional networking
A. Building a compelling LinkedIn profile: Use Chat GPT to improve your CV. You can use this prompt:
Help me revise my resume. My experience is as (enter your title) in the (enter industry) and have (number of years). Ask me questions to help rewrite my resume so it sounds more focused on (enter desire industry/title/function/ skill you're trying to target). I will be providing my experience for this role (add your previous experience, everything you have done, does not matter if it is organised)
Help me write my resume. Organise my experience in terms of skills and achievements using bullet points. I worked in (enter company) as a (enter role). I oversaw/I accomplished/I developed.
B. Expanding your network and connecting with industry professionals: Use the business cards collected from events, follow the recommendation from LinkedIn, or check the LinkedIn page of the companies where you would like to work. Go to the "People" section and add future colleagues or supervisors.
C. Leveraging LinkedIn groups and communities: Ask people to write you a recommendation, comment on your network posts, and congratulate others for their success.
II. Engaging and connecting with others on LinkedIn
A. Personalising connection requests and introductions: Check the people you want to connect with and see if you have a friend in common. If so, ask your friend for an introduction. If not, send a connection request. Use the following tips to draft your message:
(Their Name), I can see that you and I have ....... in familiar/ went to the same school/ both love scuba-diving/ worked in digital at…… / know Peter. Let’s connect. YOUR NAME.
I read your article on LinkedIn/ Business Insider/ any other magazine. This article was interesting as I am in a similar position/ have a fascination with this also. It would be great to connect as we might be helpful to each other in the future. Stay safe/ All the best (Your Name)
When sending invites on LinkedIn, only the first line of your message will be seen initially. If it is interesting enough, people will click and read the rest of the message. You want them to connect, and then you want them to accept your invitation. Therefore, pay extra attention to the following:
1. Ensure that your profile is current and accurate.
2. Review the profile of the prospective connection and identify common interests or goals. Incorporate these into your connection request message.
3. Consistently send a connection message. Unless you already have an established relationship with the connection, it is essential always to include a connection message.
B. Sharing valuable content and insights: write articles, comment on events you attended and, highlight the takeaways, tag someone you met or a friend you went with.
C. Providing endorsements and recommendations: give endorsements away! But make sure you are genuine and honest. If you do not have much to say about someone or someone's work, jump to the next on the list.
III. Nurturing digital relationships
A. Regularly engaging with connections through messaging and comments: Click "Like" or say congrats, but make sure you are around for them to remember you.
B. Offering help and support to others: someone will always benefit from your experience and knowledge. Put yourself out there and help others without expecting a return.
C. Arranging virtual meetings or calls to deepen connections: The more you go out, the easier it will get. The art of networking or conversations is something you learn and practice; nothing comes by default. If you are shy and a one-on-one might be too intimidating, invite the person to an event or activity. Experiences are always a great way to connect and bond.
Networking holds boundless possibilities. It enables you to secure employment, gain insights into various endeavours, and forge connections with fresh companions, among numerous other advantages. Engaging in networking empowers you to embrace novel prospects and broaden your horizons.
Combining face-to-face and digital networking strategies can maximise your networking potential, leveraging the benefits of personal connections and the efficiency of online platforms to enhance your professional opportunities and growth.
Take action and start networking today!