Sharpen your skills to become a networking powerhouse.

Networking events can often feel like the first day of school all over again. Only smiling and briefly introducing yourselves is no longer the key to making new connections. Now you are expected to sell yourself to complete strangers with a quick elevator pitch.

In order to become an effective networker and build powerful relationships, you need to go into networking events with a strategy. Here are 5 simple tactics that you can put to practice right away.

Create Goals

For any networking event you attend it is beneficial to set goals. Good networking begins with a plan to reach that goal. These goals can be big or small. Examples include:

  • Meeting people who can give insight on a specific organization or topic
  • Challenging yourself to speak to a certain number of people
  • Diversifying your connections by spending time with people in a different field
  • Ask more open-ended questions to stimulate conversation

Look Good, Feel Good

How you dress at a networking event can make all the difference with first impressions. There is no punishment for being overdressed. Rock a business casual outfit in your favorite neutral color (black, navy or gray) for a sophisticated look. Top this professional look off with a smile and confident body language. Start your conversations with a firm handshake and eye contact. We recommend you give the person 3 to 5 seconds of contact and then look away briefly before returning your focus to them. This relieves the tension of staring at them straight on the entire conversation.

Navigating the Art of Conversation

Conversing with complete strangers can be stressful. Before even attending the networking event, conduct research on who else will be there. This gives you time to brainstorm topics or questions to ask so in the conversation you can take the time to listen and not scramble for what to say next. For a balanced conversation talk personal and business. This makes you more approachable and keeps the conversation flowing. When in doubt ask the 5 W’s: who, what, where, why and when.

Helping Others to Help Yourself

The key to success is going into the networking event with the mindset of how you can add values to others. Establish yourself as a resource by figuring out how you can help others in the room. The more you help others, the more they’re willing to help you down the line. You can add value by responding to other’s challenges with advice. Is there a particular problem you can help with? Or interests you can keep up on and share related news about? To build solid relationships you need to give as much time and effort as you expect in return.

Follow Up

Don’t leave an event with a pocket full of business cards but no clue what to do with them. It is just as important to follow up with people as it is making the initial connection. Within 24 hours of the event you should make some form of contact with them. Whether that be sending them a quick email, phone call, popping a handwritten note in the mail or connecting with them on social media. But don’t expect a direct response from your follow up. People are busy and may not get right back to you. If you don’t hear back after a week then you can reach out again once but that’s it! Don’t be tempted to call or email them everyday because that annoyance may deter them from helping you in the future.

Remember — networking is not a numbers game, you want quality over quantity. Take the time for meaningful conversations, even if that means you talk to fewer people overall.

Sources: Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Monster, The Art of Charm, Forbes  

By: Rebecca Clausen