I was privileged to be in a teleseminar with Lynne Waymon presenting on networking. She is co-author of "Make Your Contacts Count," a book a consistently recommend to my clients. Following the teleseminar we connected by phone, and Lynne was kind enough to offer this article for my blog. Read and enjoy!
From “No-No” to “Know-How:”
Networking Know-How for Professionals
by Lynne Waymon
Do you know how to create, cultivate and capitalize on networking relationships and opportunities? For most people this is a learned skill. Sure it’s useful when you’re looking for a job, but successful people also network when they want to get the job done, promote their programs and initiatives, uncover the best resources inside and outside their organizations, stay in touch with trends, and advance their careers. You can learn to make networking an art . . . not an accident when you learn the rules and tools for building relationships. Follow these guidelines.
# 1 No-No
Don’t say, “I’m too busy,” or “I’m too broke,” or “I’m too bashful.”
# 1 Know-How
Professional associations clubs, conferences, and industry trade groups are valuable places to learn and grow with others. You’ll meet people who’ve already solved the problems festering back on your desk in your office. You’ll uncover “hot” professional opportunities and resources. But just paying your dues doesn’t get you a network. Leverage your membership by choosing activities that help you meet people in ways that are comfortable for you, give you visibility, and showcase your character and competence. Follow the “netiquette” by learning the rules and tools for building professional relationships.
# 2 No-No
Don’t answer the often asked, “What do you do?” with your title, or the name of your firm. Don’t say, “I’m looking for a job.”
# 2 Know-How
Make your answers (you’ll probably have several) short, snappy, memorable, jargon-free, interesting, and crystal clear. Give a talent (one of your many) and then in the second sentence show how you solved a problem, saved the day, or served the client. Here’s an example used by a CPA: “I negotiate with the IRS. Last week I convinced the IRS that my client’s horse farm is a business not a hobby and saved him thousands of dollars.” Another professional says, “I study arthritis as an epidemic. I just organized a conference at NIH that brought together 300 Russian and American scientists so they can share what they know.”
Would you find it easier to talk to someone who says, “I’m the Assistant Director of Alumni Relations, Division of Collages and Interest-Based groups,” or “I’m a food critic, party planner, and transportation expert. I just planned a 3 day meeting for 40 people on our Board of Directors for the Alumni Association of Marquette University.” At any event you attend there will be many people who could answer to YOUR title but only one person who “owns” your specially designed answer – you. So come with an answer that gives a talent or skill and a time you saved the day, solved the problem, or served the client.
# 3 No-No
When someone asks, “What’s new?” don’t ever say, “Not much. Same old thing. Been working really hard. . . Really tired. . .”
# 3 Know-How
Be prepared . . . to be spontaneous. You say you weren’t born with the gift of gab? Think of topics ahead of time – topics that you’re eager to talk about because of who you are and where you’ve been and what you’re looking for. Respond to “What’s new?” with ideas, information, recent successes, and inquiries about resources you’re looking for. In short, prepare an “Agenda” so your small talk is small talk has more pizzazz and purpose.
Noticing what’s on your Agenda before you attend a business or social event makes you an interesting conversational partner and teaches people what to send your way, what you’re good at, and what to count on you for.
# 4 No-No
When you’ve forgotten someone’s name, don’t ever say, “I’m sorry. I can’t remember your name.”
# 4 Know-How
If you “blank” on a name, you’ve got three choices. Don’t you often remember the topic you talked about last time you met, even though you can’t recall the name? So say, “Great to see you again. How’s that new project you told me about going?” Or give your name. Say, “Hi! I’m Susan, Susan Wentworth. We sat next to each other at the luncheon.” Or say with enthusiasm and warmth, “Hi. I remember you. Tell me your name again.” Then hang on to that name long enough to introduce the person to someone else at that event.
# 5 No-No
Don’t go for “cardboard connections” – kidding yourself that you’re “networking” just because you handed out 23 business cards.
# 5 Know-How
Pour your energy into making a conversational connection. Look for a reason to hand out your business card. As you listen, ask yourself what resources you have or people you know that you could introduce the other person to. When you “listen generously” you don’t need excuses for asking for a business card or to re-connect – you’ve got real reasons. “I’ll send you that article on doing employee surveys.” Or, “Here’s my card. Thanks so much for sending me the information on that web site.”
Whether you love it or hate it, were born with the gift of gab – – – or just fake it, networking know-how is crucial to your success. With a little practice, you can make networking an art . . . not an accident.
Lynne Waymon and Anne Baber are co-founders of the nation-wide consulting and training firm that specializes in professional networking and business development. They are the co-authors of Make Your Contacts Count (AMACOM). Sign up for their newsletter (issued about 7 times a year) at www.ContactsCount.com – it’s chock full of tips, reminders, and examples of good networking. Contacts Count trains others to present their keynotes and workshops and licenses organizations to use their materials for their internal training programs. 301-589-8633