Networking the Old-Fashioned Way
Email is great. So are texting, instant messages and the myriad of other options we have to communicate in this day and age. Regardless of how you want to talk to someone there’s probably an app for it. However, something often gets lost in translation. You’ve probably received a text and had to guess at the tone. Was it friendly? Sarcastic? The little emoticon can only tell you so much.
Yes, you need human contact
Old-fashioned networking is human contact. It’s human interaction. It’s looking someone in the eye, smiling and shaking hands. It can be messy sometimes and inconvenient, but when it comes to making a great first impression, there’s no technological substitute in the world.
Ready for some old-school networking? Good.
Here are some ways to make a great impression.
Listen to the other person. Sure you’re there to make some meaningful contacts, but the person you’re talking to is just that— a person. They’re not a walking business opportunity. Treat them with respect. Make eye contact. Make them feel like you care about what they’re saying. Make notes. Above all, put your cell phone away.
Find common ground. This is what leaders of state try to do, and it works just as well when you’re at a local business luncheon as when you’re negotiating a nuclear-arms treaty. Finding common ground involves listening to the other person and finding ways to relate your experiences to theirs. Did you grow up in the same part of the country? Like the same football team? Both keep horses or detest the big city? When you’re open to having a meaningful conversation, it becomes a lot easier to find something in common.
Don’t waste their time. There’s a fine line between being rude and beating around the bush about what you want. In a sense being too polite is rude in itself, as it disrespects the other person’s time. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Sell yourself just as you would in a job interview or client presentation. In fact, it’s a great time to break out that elevator pitch you’ve been honing.
Be enthusiastic. Maybe you’re not a people person at heart, and that’s okay. There’s something about what you do that you really like. You wouldn’t have gone into business otherwise. Let that brimming enthusiasm show. Find your “sweet spot” so you can confidently describe who you are and what you’re all about.
Follow up. Your networking efforts don’t end when you’ve shaken hands and said goodbye. They’re just beginning. A follow-up is one of the most important things you can do in networking. If you say you’re going to contact them later or get together for lunch, make sure you do it. Send an email or a thank you card telling them how much you appreciate their time and their advice. Be polite. Even in this new-aged world, old-fashioned manners still count.
So what are you waiting for? Get out and do some old-school networking! Sometimes what’s old is new again, and a personal old-fashioned approach will help you stand out in a competitive world.