Shake off the stigma that “networking” is a dirty word. Networking, when done with intention, is an organic approach to building a network to create opportunities and promote growth.

How do you change your mindset? Approach networking as an opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals (because you’re all at the same event, so you likely have similar interests) to create connection, not just connections.

Don’t focus on how many people you meet in fifteen minutes, but more importantly, how you can engage at a level leading to future collaboration. Those future collaborations? They’re the goal of networking, and where you’ll find the most beneficial outcomes — opportunities to expand your business and seek referrals and openings to pathways to cultivate support for future projects and growth. 

Connect with a purpose.

Connect with a purpose by creating an elevator pitch to ease your way through uncomfortable introductions.

Networking events are often set up to include activities to promote connecting, so be sure to pay attention to the agenda in case the networking occurs prior to the main activity.

Practice your pitch until it’s a natural flow that comes across as genuine.

Listen while you network.

Pay attention when the other person is introducing themselves, then ask a question or two about some highlight from their pitch to show you’re interested and to lay the foundation for a free-flowing and two-sided conversation.

Don’t be a conversation hog. Hold those tidbits, storing them in your back pocket, because you’ll need them later.

Use your time wisely; the greatest connections are made after the event.

Don’t rush through small talk and don’t set out to meet five new people. Instead, spend time investing in producing a lasting impression; look for common ground to further develop the relationship and determine how you can support the other person. Networking is all about reciprocity.

The fastest way to shake off the stigma of networking is to approach it with an intent to form connections that are mutually beneficial. When it’s time to reach out on LinkedIn or to send an e-mail to ask for an informational interview or a quick invite to grab coffee, use those tidbits you learned about the other person to personalize your reach out. If you can, find a way to support that person. For instance:

  • Introduce them to a contact you have that may be useful.
  • Give a recommendation of a service you’ve used that can help solve a business problem.
  • Offer to volunteer for an organization they support.
  • Lend your expertise to solve a pain point.

Intentionally set out to make mutually beneficial connections, be present, focus on quality over quantity, and make your follow-up authentic and personal.

What are some other strategies you’ve used to take the stress out of networking? I’d love to hear more, so please comment and share.

Originally Published on Ellevate.

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