Networking: Maximize your Opportunity
by Jeff Goelz
Walking into a room full of people can be intimidating to some people let alone starting a conversation. At times, we may have a friend attending a networking event or even see a few friends there as well to keep us in our comfort zone. That said, do you know yourself well enough to know how best to network in a room full of strangers? While I’ve known about WICT for many years and even a few members from my work in the industry, I found myself not knowing a single soul when I attended my first Taste of WICT in February 2014.
Fortunately, I’m no stranger to networking, but it wasn’t always that way. Anybody that knows me knows that I’m rather unafraid of new situations or meeting new people. However, before I attend an event I try to get a good sense of the organization, the membership and the event including what questions to ask to maximize my time investment. So, you could say that is Tip #1 to networking.
Tip #2 would be to act as if you’re the host of a party. This is easier than you think because you did your prep work in Tip #1. Typically, I look for someone at the networking event that’s not talking to anyone thinking they may also be new, needing someone to break the ice or could just be waiting for a friend. I’ll open a conversation by introducing myself and after they introduce themselves follow-up with some questions about their interest in attending the event, what they do for work or fun, comment about the weather or, if it’s Atlanta, the traffic. That usually opens up the conversation and possibly exchanging business cards or contact information.
Now, wonderful, you’ve made a new contact that may also be valuable to have in your network, professional or otherwise. How do you continue to build rapport? Your new contact just shared some insightful information with you. This is where Tip #3 comes into action. I go back to my office or home and write down my takeaways from the conversation and follow-up after the event with an email or note thanking my new contact for the pleasure of our conversation noting something about it or providing some additional follow-up information. And so begins the growth of your network, but how do you keep the momentum going?
Tip #4: to keep that rapport with your new contact, schedule a date on your calendar a month after you met or just before another networking event, and reach out to them with something that’s relevant or interesting for them. As you may see, a relationship starts to grow. And, just maybe, you’ll find that person incredibly helpful with the next step in your career or some other area where you need assistance because you took the time and interest to start a conversation with a stranger.
Membership in WICT has opened so many doors during my time as a member. One thing I keep in mind is that networking is the bridge to not only knowing yourself but growing yourself. You may find your next client, career opportunity or friend just by taking an interest in someone you didn’t know before networking. Happy networking!