Networking: From Virtual to Reality

Fifteen years ago, the term “networking” wasn’t part of the normal workplace vocabulary. Today, it is an essential part of successful businesses. I have created a profile on LinkedIn, an online professional networking platform through which people seek connections in order to gain credible endorsements or potentially obtain job offers. When I made this profile, I was able to spend as much time as I wanted scripting a summary about myself and writing out the titles of past job tasks in a way that make me sound appealing. This is drastically different than meeting someone and having to answer questions on the spot with much less time to formulate my answers.

I attended a networking event called “Verge” a few weeks ago. This event’s agenda included a social and cocktail hour, a business pitch time, followed by a question and answer session with a local, small business who has been very successful. I was able to mingle with various business owners, directors, and top level managers. By talking face-to-face with these people, I was able to make meaningful conversation that will have a lasting impression. When you talk to someone in person, you automatically develop what is known as a “warm” relationship. Warm relationships are imperative because they can develop into lasting business relationships.

Research is the biggest part of finding networking events that you can attend. The opportunity to go to one may fall in your lap, but more often than not, you will have to search for them. One website that I have found beneficial is www.eventbrite.com. This site allows you to search within specific communities for networking events that are relevant to your company. When you attend a networking event, there are a few things that you should keep in mind.

5 Quick Tips to a Positive Networking Experience

  1. Know your facts: You will be asked quite a few questions, so you need to have correct and meaningful answers. Be comfortable talking about yourself or the company that you are representing.
  2. Know what questions to ask: The purpose of networking events is to make connections, so have questions prepared that will help you find out more information about other local companies that could potentially develop into strong business relationships.
  3. Know the agenda: You will have limited time to reach out to as many people as possible, so don’t spend too much time by the refreshment tables. Grab a drink and mingle!
  4. Represent yourself and your company professionally: You are the face of the company during the event, therefore your actions and words directly reflect the organization. Keep the conversation light and flowing and avoid controversial topics or statements that may be offensive to others. Also, remember that appearance is the first thing that others notice when they meet you. Formal wear is not required, but the general rule of thumb is that you can never over-dress for a business event.
  5. Create leave behind material: Have business cards, pens, or pamphlets to hand out during the event. These are visual reminders that are helpful if the people you have connected with want to contact you afterwards.

Although technology is a vital tool for networking, nothing will ever be as effective as personal interactions when creating lasting business relationships. Take advantage of your local networking events as this is a good opportunity to connect with people who may be looking for the skills or resources that you or your company offer.

Photo Credit: “Startup Drinks” by Tim Dorr / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Cropped