Over the past decade, social media has dramatically changed the way people communicate and network. In the second half of the decade, businesses started to feel the pressure to join the social media movement. Many business owners have taken advantage of the qualities that social media has to offer to help brand themselves and grow their business. They are learning from their customers by listening and using that information to generate advocacy, increase brand value and create loyalty through a two-way conversation.
Although online networking provides many opportunities, in-person networking is equally if not more important. The Leadership Team at National Networking Month says, “The pursuit to become successful through social media and online marketing has created a disconnect between online networking and in-person networking. Some business professionals are losing those vital communication skills that are needed to network in person.” Although social networking allows you to expand your reach and connect with more people, it will never be as meaningful as the face to face interaction you get from in-person networking. Networking Month also believes, “In-person networking is the single, most effective way to connect with others for optimal results.”
When networking in person, it is important to keep a few “best practices” in mind.
1. Create your elevator speech
Develop a short pitch (around 30 seconds) of who you are and why you are worth getting to know. Make sure your pitch is flexible so that you can easily adjust it depending on your audience.
2. Find a common interest
It’s very important to identify common interest when talking to other people. If you talk about a topic only you are interested in, you risk being forgotten. The key, in my opinion, is to ask open-ended questions and then listen carefully for clues as to what topics may be of interest to you both.
3. Take Initiative
Often we need to take the initiative to get to know people; and some people are worth making an extra effort to get to know. In fact, it is normally the case that the more a person is worth establishing contact with the more initiative you have to take.
4. Follow Up
Making an effort to keep in touch with people really is worth it. So don’t be afraid to ask for a person’s business card, phone number or email address. This allows you to be able send a brief email, phone call, or even plan a lunch meeting.
Challenge yourself and continue to develop your communication skills. No matter how much technology advances, in-person networking will always be very important.
Visit www.networkingmonth.org for more information. It encourages professionals to build interpersonal relationships with each other, and highlights the importance of doing so. It also ensures that people have the tools they need to network confidently and effectively.