AKA how to network and influence your crowd
I sometimes joke that my superpower is making friends. And, as much as I laugh it off as not actually being a superpower, it is one of most powerful skills I have.
Whenever I give talks I emphasise the importance of networking. One lecturer recently sent me feedback from her class on what resonated in my speech, and the response to my networking tips was amazing. So here they are to help your crowdfunding campaign, business development, or life in general.
How you view networking
A lot of people get a bit put off by the idea of “networking”. They see it as this slimy thing you have to do to progress your career or grow your business. The typical vision is of suits, canapés, and boring conversations. That’s not how it has to be at all! Networking is really just making friends.
Go out, meet people, have conversations, and if they’re boring back away! Each event you go to try to meet one new interesting person who you’d like to talk to again. Don’t feel the pressure to be liked by everyone or to like everyone. Every event is a possibility to meet cool, new folk that might be in your life for a few years (or just a few minutes). And possibly about eating as many canapés as possible.
How to connect
BE INTERESTED! Ask questions. Listen. Tell your own stories. Be your uniquely interesting and badass self. That means they’ll remember you (and you’ll remember them). File away one or two mental notes like what their daughter is studying or their tip on the best book they’ve read this year will endear you to them the next time you meet (which let’s face it you will because it’s New Zealand).
How you follow up
Tip: you don’t have to. Really. Your networking could just be that event. You could follow them on Twitter, or grab their card for future reference. But don’t feel the need to follow up if there’s no need (though if you say you will, you probably should).
You never know when remembering that american tax specialist might come in handy in the future.Even if and all you only have a vague recollection of their name and where they work, Google will help you find them.
How to activate your network
So you’ve built your network, your crowd. Some of them are strong links (people you think are the bees knees and have coffees with on the regular) through to weak links (people you’ve met once at an event and haven’t seen them since).
When you want to activate the strong or weak links it is as easy as sending them a note. Make it brief. Offer them a hot or cold beverage, and ask to meet for a half hour to discuss one specific topic. If it’s their bread and butter, they may want to charge you for the meeting. But, if you make it interesting enough, quick enough, and offer them a coffee on you, they might just take up the meeting.
If someone helps you make sure you try and help them in the future.
My top networking tips are
- Treat people like people.
- It’s amazing what you can do over a drink.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help, but be willing to return the favour.
- If you’re asking for a lot of help, you should be willing to pay for it.
- Don’t take it personally if people don’t respond, they’re probably busy.
- Use Twitter to connect (how powerful those 140 characters are!)
- Have fun! (seriously… if it’s not fun, why are you doing it?)
All the best with your foray into making friends and influencing people.
Feedback that spurred this post:
The most frequent comments were around your discussions of networking and how you build and use your network: they loved your advice and had not realised before that simply showing genuine interest in other people and their stories, as well as just having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with someone and chatting could become an important networking activity.
Related to the above, some of them really liked your explanation of getting to know your crowd and building on the relationships and expertise there
Your [Five] Ps were also very memorable and stood out for some of them; one person said the P that really hit home was ‘preparing’ a really good business plan and that she hadn’t realised how critical that was until now
All of the descriptors/adjectives used for you were very positive: cool, amazing, warm, fun-loving, very interesting, genuine, nice, enthusiastic, awesome
One person commented that your networking ideas were very helpful and it sounds like you enjoy a few wines : )