Long before Dale Carnegie wrote and released How to Win Friends & Influence People in 1936, networking has always been an integral component of successful business practices. My favorite Carnegie quote is, "You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you." But in our digital age, where “networking” can be accomplished with the click of a follow button, how can business people learn to better connect face-to-face? And I want to emphasize that when I reference networking, I’m not talking about the walking spam can at events frisbeeing business cards around like Xena Warrior Princesss’ Super Chakrom.
Veteran networkers Alison Groves, community champion at Zapier, and Jacel Egan, media relations coordinator at TechnologyAdvice, shared some tips to help maximize the value you’re able to add to others through better face-to-face connections. Here are a few highlights from our conversation while hanging out at my favorite restaurant Chago’s.
5 Tips for Better Business Networking
- Show up. It’s really the most important step. Networking in real life requires showing up (both figuratively and literally) to events, mixers, conferences, and other opportunities that put you in a position to connect with like-minded individuals. It’s the first and most basic step, but even this step can prevent some from networking. While that may mean attending an event even after a long day at work, the future payoffs of such connections could be worth your time and effort. In our conversation, we discussed best practices for having meaningful conversations as opposed to the infamous scene in Dumb & Dumber.
- Get uncomfortable. Meeting new people often requires that a person go outside of their comfort zone on a routine basis. Networking also involves allowing yourself to be known by others. This can cause some people anxiety, but such anxiety should lessen as that person continues to attend more events and learns to become comfortable with their discomfort. Tip: Taking an interest in others in the conversation greatly alleviates stress because the focus is on them rather than your own interests, anxiety about networking, etc.
- Use technology. Let me clarify. Use technology as an asset, not a crutch. Online resources like Meetup and Eventbrite make the discovery of networking events much easier than it used to be. Through services like these, any person can locate a local event where they can network with others who share their interests. Nothing is greater than the face-to-face handshake so use technology to find opportunities to create intentional encounters.
- Search local. Visit the website of your local Chamber of Commerce. Sign up for their email newsletter. See what events they’re planning that will connect you with other business people. Likewise, search for organizations in your region that are similar to Nashville’s Entrepreneur Center that work to connect entrepreneurs with each other.
- If all else fails, hang out near the bar. Serendipitous opportunities seem to frequently occur at the bar. Even if no specific business networking opportunities arise, you’ll likely still have an entertaining conversation with someone. However, this more relaxed atmosphere may help anxious networkers relax while also forging a better bond than what typically occurs in the hallways of most conferences. My best connections have been totally unexpected and unplanned - this is just another reason why I am so enthralled with the Butterfly Effect.
— Clark Buckner (@ClarkBuckner) December 17, 2014
To hear more ideas from our round table discussion, listen to the full TechnologyAdvice networking discussion above.
Clark Buckner is the online events manager at TechnologyAdvice, an Inc. 5000 company that is dedicated to educating, advising, and connecting the buyers and sellers of business technology. He hosts the TechnologyAdvice Podcast, and also keeps tabs on news and trends in the TechConference industry.