Networking is one of the most valuable professional skills, and if you're not a natural networker, it is one that is worth developing.
Over the years, through online and offline networking, I have been fortunate to make countless friendships that I really value, met incredibly intelligent and helpful people and learnt from loads of best practice. Networking helps you up the serendipity factor - you come across more people, projects and opportunities so you have more chance to encounter useful experiences.
Here's some tips I've picked up:
- Don't hug the wall - it can be nervous walking in on your own but look for a friendly face and say hello.
- If you've gone with people you already know, resist the temptation to only talk to them. Make the effort to meet new people and invite your friends to join in the conversation.
- Be genuinely interested in people - not for how they can help you. There's nothing worse than talking to someone who you can tell is trying to work out if you're worth speaking to.
- Try to find some common ground. If you're at a conference, you can always ask what people have thought of the seminars or presentations as a good opener.
- Swap business cards or contact details.
- Don't dominate the conversation. Listen to what's being said and be enthusiastic about what they're saying.
- Try to speak to as many people as possible, but give each one a good chunk of time. If the conversation is interesting and you feel a good connection with the person, let it flow.
- Follow up afterwards with an email to say it was nice to meet you, a follow on Twitter or a LinkedIn connection request.
- Build the friendship - keep in touch after the event.