It doesn't have to be tortuous: these five simple strategies can take the fear out of networking and help you make lifelong connections. By The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC)
Former web developer Adam Root has worked in interactive development and design for Fortune 500 companies, midsize agencies and startups. Adam is now the founder and CTO of SocialCentiv, a Twitter marketing application for small businesses.
Here he talks about his experiences networking and his advice for others aspiring to improve their own experience:
I went into Blockbuster six years ago and was approached by another guy named Adam. We started talking and discovered we were both in marketing. He was a copywriter and I was on the tech side of marketing, so we knew the relationship could be mutually beneficial. We’re now lifelong friends and continue to work together frequently. The key to making this relationship a lasting one was identifying our potential synergy together.
These are our top five tips for networking:
Do a Five-Minute Favor
If you’re setting out to build a professional network, do a five-minute favor for five people every day. These are simple but can be very effective. For example, you could introduce two professionals you know who have common interests on LinkedIn or wish someone a happy birthday or anniversary on Facebook.
The number one quality every networker needs to have is the ability to face your fears. Walking up to someone you don’t know, giving your spiel and listening to theirs can be scary. It’s an essential part of networking. But with enough practice, it will become second nature.
Check Out Networking Groups
Alumni associations, networking groups and others like it are great venues for entrepreneurs to make solid business connections. Many networking groups are a waste of time, but the good ones are extremely helpful in expanding your network. You should also consider chambers of commerce, economic development authorities and friends of friends. I highly recommend using Meetup to find groups of like-minded people, too.
Use LinkedIn and Meetup
I use LinkedIn search, making connections on LinkedIn and Meetup to simplify my networking and follow-ups. Once I find someone on LinkedIn, I usually check if we have mutual connections and ask for an introduction. If not, I ask for a meeting through InMail. I keep it brief and clearly communicate how meeting can benefit both of us. You don’t like to be spammed, so don’t spam others. Write an individualized letter. You can make a formula to streamline the process. For example, my formula is:
Hi, 1. Mention something that proves you read their profile. 2. Identify something you have in common (such as having gone to the same school). 3. Ask for a meeting and explain why it would be mutually beneficial.
I also search for groups I would be interested in joining on Meetup. Then I attend a meetup and just hang out the first time. If it’s beneficial, I usually ask the organizer if I can present something. Presenting is the most effective way to network because it showcases your expertise and provides you with a captive audience.
Make eye contact and speak with confidence. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always introduced myself by saying, “Hi. I’m Adam Root — R – o – o – t, like the bottom of a tree.” It’s a great icebreaker and makes me memorable, which is key. At the very least, look someone in the eye, speak clearly, smile and give a firm handshake.
However: Try to Avoid Awkward Faux Pas
When I was younger and more introverted, I would often look down and mumble when I introduced myself. My handshake was also very weak. Someone called me out at a work event for my first job, and I was so embarrassed that I turned beet red and ran out of the room. Breaking eye contact and mumbling are some of the worst things you can do when meeting new people.
How do you approach new people at networking events?
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.