8 Steps for Successful Networking

Art of the Schmooze presented by Robbie Samuels at a Socializing for Justice ProfDev (low-cost professional development). SoJust is a cross-cultural, cross-issue progressive community, network and movement based on the philosophies of abundance and radical inclusion. Learn more and get connected at www.sojust.org.

Forming and cultivating relationships is at the heart of any successful fundraising campaign, volunteer drive, committee effort or community building activity. Foster and grow new networks with these practical tips and best practices to engage someone in a conversation, keep it rolling, exchange information and wrap up. Attend my Art of the Schmooze training for an interactive fast-paced and fun tutorial.

1. Say hello. Shake hands, say your name and affiliation.

Has the following happened to you? You’ve done your homework and know a particular bigwig connector, funder, donor, etc. will be at a networking event. You see them and freeze. What had you planned to say? Were you thanking them? Soliciting them? As your brain tries to put together a coherent sentence, they move out of view and the opportunity has passed. Let’s keep this simple. Just shake hands and say, “Hello, my name is (insert your name here).” The rest of your elevator pitch can come later, but to build a relationship, you need to start by making the connection.

2. Ask questions. People like to talk about themselves.

Now that you have their attention, follow up with an open-ended question. Why open-ended? You’re looking for them to share a story, which won’t happen if your question can be answered with a yes or no response. Follow Dale Carnegie’s timeless advice in “How to Win Friends & Influence People” and “allow the other person to do a great deal of the talking.” In other words, make fewer statements and ask more questions. For example, “How did you hear about this event?” or follow up with “How did you end up in your line of work?”

Caution is prudent here as some questions evoke anxiety or turn people off by “othering” them instead of welcoming them. While starting a conversation with a compliment is a good idea, we should be aware that often the very thing we’re drawn to comment on is something that’s different from ourselves. For instance, commenting on someone’s height: “Wow, you’re tall! How tall are you?” isn’t a compliment, nor is it a conversation starter. The same is true for hair texture, skin color — basically anything that isn’t chosen by the person you’re talking with. In contrast, comments about sunglasses, scarves, jackets and jewelry are all things that can be perceived as compliments (provided they are positive) and graciously accepted as such. The key difference is these are all items chosen by the wearer, not a factor of who they are. Also, in today’s economy it isn’t wise to begin by asking what someone does for work. They may not be employed in a job or field that they love — or they may be unemployed. “What do you do to fill your day?” is a safer opening line.

Continue reading 8 Steps for Successful Networking at www.RobbieSamuels.com.