At the end of June I had the great pleasure to attend and be part of the We Own It Summit in NYC. The annual event brings together men and women from across the globe who are committed to growing and developing the number of high growth female led businesses.
I was delighted to particapte on a panel about the power of networks, and what differences exist (if any) between the way men and women build and leverage theirs'. After much debate including some hot button topics such as "...Men purposefully create a network with the view to achieving XYZ vs. Women create meaningful relationships"; we concuded there are actually very few variations. We worked together to create an action orientated list of best practises on how to build a successful network across all sexes!
Here are some of those top tips for networking success:
1. Plan ahead. Are you going to an event? Look at the attendee/speaker list, is there someone you'd like to meet? Reach out to them beforehand and ask for a 10 minute chat. Events can be overwhelming, make sure you connect with the people you 'want' to meet first.
2. Have a conversation. Enjoy the serendipty of meeting someone new. Treat networking as a conversation, do not get bogged down in what they can do for me, and vice-versa. Treat every opportunity as a chance to learn something new.
3. Be authentic. People want to meet the real 'you'. Do not be concerned by someone's title, merely switch your questions up, but not your style and not how you act.
4. Follow up. Once you've made a connection, it's important to actually follow up. Send a brief email, connect on Linked In or Twitter. Remember some small detail from your conversation and include in the note to help that person remember you. It's surprising how many great conversations start only to die because someone was too busy to follow up.
5. Nuture. If you've ever dated anyone, which I'm sure most of you have, you know relationships take work. Great communication takes time and effort. That said, it becomes easier than ever to manage your contacts, reminders, details of encounters. Use the sleu of tools out there. Linked In will allow you to tag people, some folks on my panel use an Excel spreadsheet which is incredibly simple. Whilst new apps such as Nimble aim to connect your contacts across email, and social etc.
6. Be generous. Remember to offer something first, share an article you know will help the other person, or make an introduction for them. Do people a favor. With so much good will in the bank, when it comes for your time to ask, someone will surely do their best to help you.
7. Create a Habit. Personally, I've set myself a goal of reaching out to people in my network 3-4 times a week with a brief note, and then plan on checking in again 2-3 months later. The more you do it, the easier and more familar it becomes.
Networking can seem arduous and take a lot of time, but time and time again it's going to be your network that creates the luck for your next job opportunity, the serendidpty of that new business partnership, that fantastic new hire for your team, and the potential for a new life-long friend.
It's really worth the effort to build a strong network, wouldn't you agree?