On December 18, The Raleigh Forum hosted another brown bag lunch at HUB Raleigh. This time the topic was Networking 101, which has been one of the most requested sessions.
We brought in Derrick Minor, who serves as the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Manager for the City of Raleigh. We like to call him Mr. Networker because he knows just about everyone in the downtown entrepreneurship community.
Derrick gave us some guidelines for networking, but before he launched into the lists, he made sure to reiterate a few points. Networking is not about immediate benefit, it’s about building relationships. Don’t go into a networking event expecting to walk away with clients- go expecting to meet interesting people and form relationships that may be valuable down the road. That massage therapist you meet? She may end up connecting you with your next big client (just ask Derrick). Now on to those lists!
Top 10 Guidelines for Networking
10. Research local networking events: Search on Eventbrite. Use Meetup. In the Triangle, try Social Carolina. Ask your contacts where they hang out.
9. Decide what type of event is the best fit for your business and schedule: When do “your people” network? Over breakfast, over coffee, over cocktails, or later in the evening? You can’t go to everything, so be selective with your time.
8. Find out who is attending and identify 3-5 who you want to meet: Search attendee lists (Eventbrite invites will often show the guest list) and find 3-5 people that you’ve heard of and would love to meet. Or do a quick Google search of names you don’t recognize and add them to your mental list if they look interesting!
7. Get involved by volunteering: Work the door- handle registration or pass out name tags. People have to interact with you! If you’re a nervous networker, having something to occupy you can prevent awkward conversations and give you an easy icebreaker. As Derrick points out, people will connect you with the cool event they’re attending, which has a positive psychological effect. But try to approach volunteering with a selfless attitude and don’t go into it expecting anything.
6. Utilize social media before, during, and after the event: Twitter, Twitter, Twitter Many events these days have a hashtag just for the event. Find it and use it! Search the hashtag before, during, and after to see who else is going or went. If you see someone interesting, tweet them to arrange a time and place to meet up during the event.
5. Don’t just hang out with your friends during events: Balance your time between making new connections and reinforcing current ones. Ask your friends to introduce you to new contacts. Peruse LinkedIn ahead of time to see if you have a connection to anyone you’re looking to meet- a warm introduction is better than just introducing yourself out of the blue (though don’t be afraid to do that too!). Also: I find that it’s better for me to pass on a networking event if I’m not in the mood to make small talk with strangers. Why waste my time and risk looking uninterested?
4. Don’t go with the “hand out as much business cards as possible” strategy: I’ve had a similar experience to Derrick: someone walked up to me and thrust their business card into my hand without saying a word. Whyyy? Avoid this strategy!
3. Introduce others (including those you have just met): Connect others, even if you’ve just met one or both of them. You’ll become known as a connector, which increases your social
Klout clout. And a bonus? It’s a good way to get out of an awkward conversation
2. Become a leader by creating your own networking event or workshop: Don’t see an event out there that meets your needs? Create your own! Just like I did with the Triangle blog group…
1. Follow up is key: Set a brief email to everyone you meet to stay on their radar. If you have a pressing reason to set up a meeting, do so, but be mindful of your time. Perhaps a phone call would be sufficient?
The 2 Golden Rules of Networking
1. Be selfless, not selfish: Not “me, me, me.” Remember: networking is not a zero sum game.
2. Be authentic, be genuine, be yourself: Don’t be overly professional! People relate to real, genuine people.
And my own tip: Write down what you talked about with each person on the back of their business card. Later on, refer to these notes to remember what you spoke about. You can even follow up with the person with an interesting article that’s related to what you chatted about!
Want more of my tips? Come to my brown bag lunch on January 8 at 12pm!