In an article for the Huffington Post, I shared with readers my love for informal, even random, networking – and how I seem to be a magnet for bizarre networking encounters. (One such encounter happened in the locker room wrapped only in a towel!)
As much as I seem to attract these random networking opportunities, when it comes to making new connections, I also make a deliberate effort to put myself out there. And I continue to be amazed by the number of doors that open as a result!
There are so many different ways to say “hello” and make those small connections that will enrich life both personally and professionally. Broken down by before, during and after you meet someone new, here are my 10 best tips for making the most out of random networking moments:
Before you meet…
1. Seek Opportunities to Meet People in Casual Settings
Whether it is joining a local Happy Hour meet-up (you can often find great events listed on Eventbrite), joining a local kickball league, or just attending a local gym, always be on the lookout for hot spots to meet new people.
2. Carry Business Cards
You never know when the opportunity will strike to make a connection that will ultimately benefit your business. Be prepared. Carry business cards at all times, especially business cards that include social media profiles (such as your Twitter @ handle), to make it easy for people to connect with you outside of email.
3. Dress to Impress
I know this sounds contradicting to my earlier “hint” of meeting a professional contact while wrapped in a gym towel… but that situation was unavoidable!
You do not have to be dressed to the nines at all times (especially during uber-casual situations like a gym outing), but it’s helpful to remember that a first impression is the most important impression – and people do judge the book by it’s cover, as the saying goes…
Make the effort to look presentable whenever you are in public, which will give you a “s/he has it all together” look. As a bonus, looking sharp will also boost your confidence and will in turn give you the motivation to put yourself out there more to others!
During that first conversation…
4. Make Eye Contact
Making eye contact demonstrates that you are truly focused on your conversation. It makes the other person feel heard and important. This basic tactic goes a long way in making a positive long term impression.
Repeat the person’s name back to them in the beginning and the end of the conversation – This trick not only helps the other person feel recognized, but it will help you remember their name!
5. Ask “How Can I Add Value?”
I used to profusely thank people for their time and perspective. While I admit I still might go overboard on showing gratitude, I’ve trained myself (thanks to a nudge from my friend, Helen Quick) to ask, “How can I add value to you?” This line goes over well no matter who I’m meeting with. Just be prepared to actually follow up!
6. Have a “Call to Action”
As my mentor and the prolific author, John Maxwell, recently told me, “every engagement ought to lead to the next engagement.” Never have a meeting without the expectation that something should follow. Set yourself up for the follow-up.
7. Make Your Intention to Follow-up Clear
Before ending the conversation with your new connection, tell him or her how you plan to follow-up. Simply stating, “I will send you an email for a coffee date” will let that person know that you are serious about staying in touch. Of course, follow through on the commitment.
After the meeting…
8. Follow-up Immediately
After you meet someone, your encounter is fresh in their mind… keep it that way! Don’t wait days before emailing him or her. Immediately after meeting someone new, send the person an email, Tweet, or give them a call thanking them for taking the time to meet you.
9. Connect Them with Someone Else You Know
I’m a firm believer in the importance of connecting people. I strive to create mutually beneficial connections within my network of personal and professional contacts – and I’m constantly blown away by how appreciative people are. As an added bonus, contacts often put me in touch with some of their fabulous connections!
10. Keep in Touch (Mark it on Your Calendar!)
When you meet someone new, be sure to mark your calendar with future check-in dates with that person. Do you want to connect with them monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually? Whatever the desired frequency may be, marking these check-ins on your calendar is a helpful reminder to keep the relationship going.
Now to you: How do you best bridge connections with others as a young careerist? I would love to hear your unique random networking stories and tips. Please share below in the comments section!
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Under30CEO!
About the Author: Carrie Rich is the co-founder and CEO of The Global Good Fund, an organization dedicated to investing in the leadership development of high potential young entrepreneurs committed to social impact. Carrie enjoys photography, other people’s cooking and jogging, on occasion.
Image courtesy of vitaeducation.org. Thank you!