Making connections is an important aspect of business and often crucial to being successful. Whether you’re schmoozing it up at a conference or making the rounds at an industry event, meeting and greeting people is definitely important. I thought I’d share 6 random networking tips to help increase your number of contacts and hopefully create lasting connections.

  1. Use normal-sized business cards. Standard business cards are 3.5 x 2 in. While I think it’s fine to use shorter than 3.5 inches (I’ve collected the occasional business card that’s shaped like a stick of gum), I wouldn’t go higher than that or wider than 2 inches. The reason for this is because bulky, odd-shaped business cards don’t fit well in people’s pockets or card holders. Every once in a while I’ll receive some stupid huge business card that doesn’t fit in my business card holder, so I end up having to awkwardly fold it or jam it into my card holder to fit or I just throw it away out of irritation. Guess which one I end up doing?
  2. Arrive late or stay until the end of events. This tip came from my employer and friend Jon Kelly, founder of Sure Hits and, most recently, This or That. He told me that when he first went to search conferences, he would show up towards the end of different mixers and parties because most of the people he’d most want to meet would be the ones sticking around until the end. A lot of the big industry names and influential people love to network, and they’re more likely to stay out having drinks and chatting with people, so if you either show up late to an event or stay until the end of it, you’ll probably run into these people than if you show up on time and leave after a couple hours.
  3. Do some light stalking (but don’t be creepy). One of Shoe’s best posts about how to get press for your website, business, or service suggests getting as much intel as you can on a person by scoping out his or her Facebook profile, Twitter account, and LinkedIn credentials. When striking up a conversation with someone, it’s much easier and fun to chat if you have a common bond. Do your homework — if there’s someone you specifically want to meet, look up that person’s interests so that you’ll have a nice ice breaker when your paths eventually cross. I’m more willing to want to talk to you about Dexter or The Walking Dead than Internet marketing right off the bat if we were to meet and converse over some drinks.
  4. Act happy and interested, duh. I’ve met a large number of people over the years who act sulky, bored, or like they have something better to do when I try to introduce myself and get to know them. When they contact me at a later point and ask for a favor, I’m less than thrilled and am not exactly jumping out of my seat to help them out. You have to at least feign interest when you’re meeting people. It kind of goes hand in hand with successful networking. If you don’t act happy and interested when you’re talking to someone, it’s going to show in your body language and demeanor, and later when you call upon that person to help you out in some way, you may have blown your chances simply because you were acting too good to talk to him/her a few months back. Be polite, smile, ask questions, nod your head, give firm handshakes — even if you’re bored out of your skull, you can suck it up and endure a few minutes of idle chatter because you never know if the boring dude you’re talking to will end up being someone you need to contact in the future.
  5. Send out unique follow up emails/social networking requests. When you follow up after an event, include a personal message. Don’t just send out a generic Facebook or LinkedIn request; customize the message that accompanies the request so that the person you’re reaching out to remembers you. When sending an email, include information about how/where you met and throw in a joke or reference from your conversation to show the person that you remember him/her. I’m more likely to recall follow up correspondence that includes personal details from our encounter (and maybe even kisses my butt a bit) than generic “It was nice meeting you at [insert event name here] and I hope our paths cross again soon” messages.
  6. Don’t badger for favors. If you do meet someone and ask that person for a favor, don’t be pushy about it. Oftentimes people will make an empty promise or will say something they’ll forget when they’ve been drinking or have been up all night chatting with hundreds of different people. If someone says they’ll maybe hook you up with something, do a follow up about the favor but don’t badger the person. If you act like a leech about something that a person said s/he would maybe possibly perhaps look into doing for you, the more you bug that person, the more annoying you are and the less that person will want to help you out.

What other random networking tips do you have?

By Rebecca Kelley

Rebecca Kelley is the Director of Marketing for This or That Media. She also runs Mediocre Athlete, a hobby blog about exercising and training, and My Korean Mom, a blog about her harsh but amusing Korean mother. In her spare time, Rebecca is a freelance blogger for hire, loves food and movies, and trains for marathons and triathlons.

54 thoughts on “6 Random Networking Tips”
  1. One of my favorite tips is to make eye contact at all times..this show that you are not intimidated.

    “TrafficColeman “Signing Off”

    1. You’ve done it again, Rebecca. These are certainly some superb networking. My favorite method to establish my presence? Hold volunteer positions in organizations. This is a great way to stay visible and give back to groups that have helped you.

      1. Be ready and rehearse a personal introduction to yourself and your business. Say a piece of interesting trivia or something informative about your business towards the end of your spiel to encourage a conversation. Smile and give firm handshakes as well.

        1. That’s always been the hardest part for me. I get tongue-tied sometimes when I’m about to introduce myself.

      2. Some of my current clients were introduced to me while I was doing volunteer work. So, yes, volunteering definitely helps especially if you treat the job as you would a regular paying project. Let the outcome speak for itself and before you know it you’ll be meeting a lot more clients.

    2. Savvy networkers always have an idea of what the goal is for each event they attend. Make sure you know — before going in — what the outcome is that you want for yourself or for the people you meet at each event. Just being there without a strategy beforehand can lead to disaster.

    3. Nice article! You’ve pretty much covered the more important tips and some of the comments I’ve read provided some additional inputs as well

    4. If you are intimidated, just act confident. Like they say, fake it ’til you make it. Same principle applies every time.

  2. Be genuine. I can’t believe how often I’m contacted by somebody that just isn’t genuine. A little ass kissing is ok, but get to the point about what you’re after so that I can either shit-can the conversation, or get excited about it.

    1. This is my very simple tip: Don’t hog the conversation. Likewise, don’t say just anything in order to say something publicly but saying one really smart thing at your table or in front of the whole group will make you much more memorable than half an hour of semi-conscious small talk. Create value for others and you create value for yourself.

    2. Good networkers are flexible people who approach connection-making as a fluid enterprise that extends far beyond hotel conference room walls. You never know who will step onto the adjacent elliptical trainer at the gym; who will be parked behind you in an interminable grocery store line; who will sit next to you on an airplane; or who will be under the hair dryer next to you at the beauty salon. Don’t let these opportunities pass you by. Carpe diem!

      1. Put on a happy face at the door and remind yourself that it is “show time”. This is your time to sparkle and shine. People will look forward to seeing you and meeting you if you are energetic, positive, and outgoing. Again, people enjoy doing business with people that they like. BE a person that others will like. Hopefully you’ve heard the zen expression “Be the ball” … well, whenever you have the chance, “Be the ball of the ball!” Do not burden or bore people with your troubles or your problems. Everyone has enough of their own, and, trust me on this, they do not need or want to hear about yours. — Zita Gustin

        This is a really excerpt I got while browsing my favorite blogs the other week! ๐Ÿ˜›

  3. Good article, I like how you said “even kisses my butt a bit” lol

    another good tip is dress nice, no one likes to stand next to someone who looks like sh*it and smells.

    I am just saying!

    1. To backup Edgar comment, I would say that you will always prefer being overdressed than being underdressed…

    2. I just ask open-ended questions in networking conversations. This means questions that ask who, what, where, when, and how as opposed to those that can be answered with a simple yes or no. This form of questioning opens up the discussion and shows listeners that you are interested in them. Ain’t this a winner, too, Rebecca?

      1. Ask thought-provoking questions and never act like a know-it-all when engaged in discussions. That’s the gist!

  4. Great article TBH, 6 is extremely important, if you just meet someone and straight away start sending them messages everyday asking for favours, you’ll look like a leach.

    OK, send a message the night later, put a joke or two in there, if they follow up with you then great, if they don’t send another a few days later, if they still don’t, they probably don’t give a rat’s ass.

    Few spelling mistakes though but overall great tips.

    1. Immediately asking for favors is networking suicide in my book. You have to build a solid relationship first before even implying the slightest hint of a favor you’d like to ask. What’s your take on this?

      1. I learned this pointer from Stephanie Speisman during a networking workshop in Denver about a year ago: Call those you meet who may benefit from what you do and vice versa. Express that you enjoyed meeting them, and ask if you could get together and share ideas. I guess item number 5 drives it home, Rebecca.

  5. Great tips Rebecca, I definitely agree with not going with huge business cards, although they do stand out, there are better ways to have your business card stand out and still be the right size so that potential clients can store it effectively.

    1. Before deciding to go to networking meeting, learn and assess if the people attending belongs to your target market or if they are within your social interest. By the way, Rebecca, I’d love to chat about Dexter with you over coffee or something… ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Be the authentic, aw-shucks, humble, shy person you are. It can be endearing. Don’t try to be something you’re not. In other words, it’s OK if you’re a little awkward. Just don’t keep apologizing for it.

  6. All good tips Rebecca. I dislike the oversized biz cards too. Yeah, they may grab my attention initially, but if I can’t put a card in my pocket easily, it is much more likely to get tossed.

    The tip on follow-up is huge. That is the place where the vast majority of people fail. You go to a trade show and meet a ton of new people and then don’t bother following up with them effectively (if at all). Think about how many cards you hand out at a show versus how many follow up messages you receive. Do a good job here and you separate yourself from the majority of people at the event.

    1. As my sociology professor related way back in college, the trick to being remembered is to be distinctive. A brightly-colored, hand-painted tie, an unusual necklace or other jewelry, a good (but not overpowering) cologne, even just impeccable grooming can all help you stand out in a good way. It’s not that you want to be remembered and identified for that, but anything that helps people separate you from the crowd helps them remember the rest of you. You don’t have to be outlandish — although some people work that quite well — just don’t blend in completely with the crowd.

    2. Before deciding to go to networking meeting, learn and assess if the people attending belongs to your target market or if they are within your social interest, to put it simply.

    3. Teach, don’t sell! A smart networker knows that the immediate sale of a product is not the goal in networking. Networking is about building relationships with people who will be happy to tell others about who you are and what you do. Word of mouth advertising is the most cost effective and powerful advertising. At every opportunity, teach others about who you are, as a person, and what it is that you do. Always present a clear emphasis on the type of client that you are looking for. In doing this, you will be building a salesforce that can reach far wider than you can on your own.

    4. Keeping it simple works best. Some have a mistaken notion that fancy business cards would separate them from the rest. It could do that but it’s doesn’t guarantee that any substantial connection will be created by that alone. How you articulate what you have to offer and how quickly and efficiently you follow through on referrals are still more important.

  7. Networking is such a simple concept, yet so hard to execute these days, with the fact that there are so many ways it can be done.

    1. There are many sources of networking contacts that many fail to explore. Bottom line, it helps if you’re ready to engage someone in meaningful conversation. Don’t just treat them as possible business contacts.

    2. Networking isn’t about the quantity of contacts you make. It’s about the quality of relationships you establish.

  8. When you’re there, be fully there. Be totally engaged and completely aware of the people you interact with. You can break this down into smaller, somewhat mechanical pieces — listen well, respond promptly, maintain eye contact, etc. — but if you are truly present in the moment, those things will happen naturally. Many people only seem to be “half there”, so being fully engaged helps you stand out. Being aware and perceptive enough can lead to superb business deals sooner or later if you catch my drift.

    1. I agree. I’ve been to some networking gatherings where most of the people I’ve talked with were obviously busy thinking about something else during the conversation. I figured it’s hard to do business with some people who wouldn’t even bother to listen to what I have to say.

  9. Become known as a powerful resource for others. When you are known as a strong resource, people remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, names of other people and so on. This keeps you visible to them. Visibility means exposure and exposure means — of course — potential customers.

  10. If you want to be treated with respect, treat others with respect. If you want your phone calls and email missives returned, call and write back to the people who contact you. If you want big-wigs to make time for you, make yourself available to others whom you might be able to help out. It’s that simple.

  11. This is such a nice read! I’ve only recently started attending events so the tips you shared will really be helpful. Thanks!

  12. “Networking is conversation with a purpose รขโ‚ฌโ€œ a mutually beneficial exchange of ideas, positive energy, advice, referrals, leads or contacts.” – Tom Denham (blog.timesunion.com)

  13. I really enjoyed reading your post. Very insightful. Networking isn’t my strongest suit so any tip would be helpful.

  14. Brevity helps. Short, crisp, powerful messaging. Be ready to communicate what you’re up to in the shortest time possible. People appreciate straightforward answers especially if they can’t spare more time to talk with you.

  15. Great post! I like #4 best. Of course it’s way much better if you don’t have to pretend interest.

  16. Change your avatar

    I would never read your Post with a Myspace style photo.

    Take a professional one… Cutie girls might take pictures with funny expression…

    But you…. come on change it.

  17. Great post. You had listed really useful and informative tips which I think all that who are here will agree.

  18. Rebecca – Nice tips on networking, particularly when you talked about arriving late or staying until the even ends. Also, showing some happiness and showing that you’re interested is very critical if you want to build a solid number of contacts.

    I never thought about sending out follow up emails after an event, but I will definitely give that one a try and see how it works out for me. Thanks for the tips.

  19. Some great tips. Would love to see a follow-up post with some tips for beginners. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. I think I will become a great follower.Just want to say your article is striking. The clarity in your post is simply striking and i can take for granted you are an expert on this subject.

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