Networking comes naturally to me as evidenced by my first-grade report card that stated, “Pam gets along well with others and makes friends easily.”
So, when there’s an opportunity to get out and meet people, I’m all for it! But I realize this isn’t the case for everyone.
As a business owner for 19 years, I know networking is hands down the golden key to making connections, opening doors and cultivating new relationships with contacts. I’m proud to say that my firm Thomas/Boyd Communications has built our business primarily through networking and client referrals. After all, business is about personal contact and relationships with people.
Networking can happen when you least expect it to, and it can have unforeseen impact on your business. Years ago, while serving as a panelist on the topic of Public Relations/Marketing, I struck up a conversation with one of the other panelists. That conversation led to lunch, which led to a business opportunity. That was seven years ago, and we’re still working with that client today.
Networking is about connecting the dots and building relationships. Here are some do’s and don’ts:
DO Get Involved – Networking happens everywhere, from chamber and business events to more informal gatherings. When I was starting out in business, I joined the marketing committee of a chamber of commerce, and immediately got to know 20 people off the bat. Next time I went to a chamber event, I knew those 20 people, and they introduced me to more and so on and so on…
DO Look and Act the Part – Remember you’re representing both your business and your personal brand. Dress accordingly. It doesn’t hurt to practice your handshake either. Make sure it’s firm and look the person in the eye.
DO Talk About Your Business – It’s important to let people know what you do in case they or someone they know need your service one day. Keep a few talking points in mind about your line of work, but don’t get stressed out about creating a “30-second commercial.” Instead, create messaging in your own words and your own style. The last thing you want to do is sound like a recorded script.
DO Introduce People – Find the connection between someone you just met and someone you know. Help someone else expand their network, too.
DO Follow Up – Send a follow up email or LinkedIn request when appropriate. Stay in touch, and stay on their radar.
DON’T Try to Be Someone Else – You can always tell when someone is projecting an image of who they think they should be. Be yourself! Don’t feel like you have to fit a certain type of networking “personality.” Discover your style by asking yourself, “What is my personal brand? How do I see myself?”
DON’T Forget Someone’s Name – Do whatever you need to do to ensure it doesn’t go in one ear and out the other.
DON’T Look Over Someone’s Shoulder – It’s so irritating to talk to someone and see their eyes looking around for someone else to talk to. You may not find who you’re looking for, and you’ve completely alienated the person you’re talking to in the process.
DON’T Think Only About Yourself – Networking is a mindset. You’re learning about someone else and making a connection. Maybe you can help each other.
About the Author:
Pam Boyd is co-founder and president of Thomas/Boyd Communications and an award-winning marketing communications professional who provides strategy to advance her clients and their causes. She has achieved renowned success in media relations and placements, event planning and strategic programs and initiatives.