A different way to… Network

You have read many networking articles. Been to many networking events. And cringe at, yet another, networking event that you *should* attend…

I understand. I hear you. I feel you… I really feel you!

I want to share with you some of my little tricks that I have developed as a partnerships professional and people connector. These tricks have helped to bring some interesting connections into my professional and personal life.

1) Finding events that *actually* interest me

I’ve found recently that my most effective networking comes when I’m most interested in the theme/topic or type of audience it targets. An example was at the Social Innovation Summit last year, where I was genuinely curious about updating and learning about this emerging space. It resonated with my beliefs in social impact and because I’m a little behind in technology (read, a lot), I was curious to see what there was to help me in my work. I ended up doing an impromptu 3 minute pitch to funders/business owners and came away with a few offers of pro-bono service for our work.

2) Advertisement language

Do the words work for me? Or do they repel me? Personally, I prefer meaningful connections over quantity, so when there are words such as ‘speed-networking’, ‘meet hundreds of stakeholder engagement professionals like you’, I get a little wary.

3) Making friends while waiting at registrations or drinks station

A very easy way to introduce myself and to help ease into the event. At last year’s Asia Society Ball, I knew very few people in a room of 500 people, so I smiled and made conversation with the woman in front of me, which we both thoroughly enjoyed during the 10min queue.

4) Browsing through the name badges at registration desk

Some events have name badges, some don’t. I’m always curious to see if I know anyone there, or if there might be anyone I’d like to meet.

5) Know my preference – small or large groups?

I personally find it easier to start with a small group of 2-3 people. I like to casually bring myself into the group, make eye contact with someone just as the person speaking is finishing and smile. That usually gives me a nice segue into the group while using my not-so-secret-asset – my smile and friendliness.

6) Welcoming floaters who are walking around looking for a group to join

Isn’t it nice when someone smiles at you and gestures you to join them, especially when you rushed over from work, after having hit ‘send’ on your email as you run out the door? I did this at the recent Amina of Zaria Side Hustle Series in Melbourne and made friends that way.

7) Bringing business cards and using the QR function on LinkedIn

Have you discovered the awesome QR code function that scans others’ profiles or vice-versa on your LinkedIn app? So nifty and it saves me time later on. Though admittedly, I still like receiving and giving business cards, I’m one of those individuals who keep stacks of business cards in my top drawer and flip through them when I need to contact someone. When using business cards, I make sure mine are kept in one pocket, so I can put the ones I receive in the other. Oh, and I keep stashes of business cards in different bags, purse and sometimes notebooks. If you don’t have business cards, make your own through places such as VistaPrint where you can be creative – how do you want to be seen as? How do you want to be known?

8) Bringing an attitude of “how can I support/help you?”

This helps me to approach my interactions with a sense of curiosity. By putting myself in this space, I project this energy and the other person feels welcomed. An unexpected gesture of kindness. Much nicer than “what can I get from you”, right?

9) Having few expectations

I’ve found when I have little expectations, I have more interesting conversations!

10) Drinking lots of water

I find networking events or meeting with people dehydrate me, so I find it useful to keep my non-alcoholic fluids up before, during and post-event.

11) Knowing my limits

A work in progress. When I’m smart about it, I check in with my body to see how I am feeling walking into the event. If I’m feeling tired or ungrounded, I try to drink some hot water or tea to settle me. I also know that I need to be resourceful with the number of connections that I make, as I can feel drained or over-excited by the connections.

Similarly, I am learning to be selective in how many events to attend in a month. While it’s useful to meet a lot of people, connections are only useful if they are followed up, which take time and energy later. I also try very hard not to schedule too many meetings on the day of a networking event or more than 2 events in 1 week.

12) Follow-up

I try to follow-up with a LinkedIn message or email within 24 hours. I find I get more responses through LinkedIn than through email. The chances of the other person willing to follow up with a tea/coffee with me afterwards also tends to be higher. Sometimes, I like to share with them a resource that they might find useful or to respond to a comment they made.

Here are just some of the learnings that work for me and my personality. I’d be interested to hear how you network and what works for you?

Image by Jean Sum