We live in a digital world. In one afternoon, through LinkedIn research, I’ve made more contacts in one day than I have at some trade shows. But the truth is, we are all humans and we want to connect in person. Call me crazy, but I’ve always been a fan of networking in big crowds. It may be the reason I was first to volunteer to run the cash register on Black Fridays during my retail job in high school. Or, perhaps it’s the reason I was a top cookie seller in my Girl Scout troop. Through the years, I’ve taken this love of meeting new people to a new level with my professional networking. Here are a few things I’ve learned about connecting and developing meaningful relationships.
1. Research in advance
If you’re attending a trade show or conference, often times you can get the attendee list in advance. Do your homework on the speakers, sponsors and attendees. You’ll be more like-able and memorable if you can confidently mention something about your new friend’s business or an article you’ve seen him or her featured in. Google and LinkedIn make this pre-event research pretty easy these days.
2. Practice your elevator pitch – tell them why!
I’ve learned that people want to know more about “why” you do what you do than “what” you do. Let’s take this for example.
“Hi, I’m Marissa and I manage marketing campaigns and make new connections for Forge3.”
“Hi, I’m Marissa and I love connecting people and telling my clients’ stories. I’m responsible for developing strategic marketing campaigns for clients while facilitating meaningful business relationships in our industry.”
3. Listen while making quality connections
It is so tempting to scan the room while talking with someone to plan your next introduction. While it’s nice to leave an event with a pocket full of business cards, this is one of those cases where you have to consider having four quarters over 100 pennies. Focus on making a connection with the person you’re speaking to. Find commonalities and allow yourself to be genuinely interested in what this person is telling you.
If you find the conversation fizzling out, politely excuse yourself. This will be much better than abruptly walking away from a conversation mid-sentence, or even worse – having wandering eyes while this person is sharing what is special to him or her.
4. Stay positive
I read an article once about networking that encouraged people to bond over something negative. I guess this is the whole “misery loves company” theory. I actually prefer to do the opposite. Pick something out – the venue, the speaker lineup, or the lunch selection – and say something nice it about it! I’m a firm believer that positivity is contagious, so before you complain about the weather or a sticky name badge on your sweater, tell someone that you really like his or her business card design.
5. Send a follow-up email and LinkedIn request
The sooner the better on this one! Typically I will go through my cards as soon as I get home and connect with everyone on LinkedIn and then send a follow-up email with my contact information. Bonus points if you can include something special that you discussed with this person!
6. Send a handwritten thank-you note
This will always be one of the greatest ways to differentiate yourself from other event attendees. Taking the time to send a handwritten note takes time and thought, leaving the impression that you would take the same approach to all of your work. Plus, it’s just pretty darn thoughtful.
7. Keep in touch!
The conversation doesn’t have to end after the follow up email. Even if it doesn’t make sense to immediately connect for a meeting, stay in touch by liking or commenting photos on social media, reaching out on birthdays and milestones, and commenting on any relevant articles. You never know how your paths may cross again. Check out LinkedIn’s Connected app to see how they’ve made this easy for us!
I’ll leave you with this.
“People won’t always remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.”
Try to leave positive feelings everywhere you go!