A Journey to Networking
A few days ago I received a text message: someone wanted me to do a speech on networking at a forum of entrepreneurs. Hmm, networking… interesting word, and an interesting topic to talk about.
For starters, what is networking? It is the combination of two words — net and working. Is it working with your net? Is it putting your net to work? In fact, it’s another trendy word which means you need to get out of your cave and interact with others, nothing more, nothing less.
How to start networking
When I was preparing my keynote for the lecture, I thought about my own start in the networking world. I had opened my personal blog a couple of years ago and I used to talk a lot about politics (I don’t do this anymore, but at that time, it was main topic, to be honest) and one day someone called me from Madrid, they wanted me to assist with thefirst Spain-Israel blog encounter. At first, I was astonished. The encounter meant traveling to Madrid and meeting Israel’s ambassador, as well as other interesting people who were also going to the event. Needless to say, my answer was a resounding yes! This was the opportunity I was looking for. It was an opportunity not only to meet someone “important” and some cool bloggers too, but also, and for the first time, I was going to be at the right place at the right moment.
One of the things I have learned about networking is that you need to be out there, to make people somewhat aware of your existence. It might start with a blog, a website, your social networks, anything really, but you need to be out there letting others get to know you.
After that first (successful) event, I went to a so-called “networking event” near my home, organized by the Chamber of Commerce. The conference’s aim was to bring together entrepreneurs from very different areas so they could get to know each other and maybe start a professional relationship. I wasn’t happy with my job and I’ve always had some grand notions, so I thought it was a good idea to drop by and get to know some more people and, above all, let others get to know me.
A networking event consists of a speech (or speeches) accompanied by some drinks or coffees — depending on the hour — which are offered by the organizer. It’s precisely during these coffee breaks that the attendants get to know each other and exchange business cards.
Over the past few years, we’ve been suffering from an overbooking of these kinds of events. Social networks had encouraged people, and everybody wanted to “devirtualize” their online contacts. This networking fever is getting back to its ‘normal levels’ now, and you can assist at one event a month, perhaps two, if you are a ‘serial’ networker.
What to do with your new contacts
Ok, so you’ve been to a couple of networking events and you have your wallet full of business cards, you’ve carefully added the people on Linkedin and other social networks, and now what?
You don’t need to force any situation. Networking is about people. It is about establishing connections between you and the people you know or among the people you know themselves, and it is about weaving your own net and building relationships with others.
It usually happens that if you don’t establish one of these connections straightaway and within a certain time, you start losing control of the new contacts.
My recommendation here is to keep track of the event you coincide with that person and your impressions about him or her. You can add a note on Linkedin or in your address book, so you can always know how you met.
Like I’ve already said, it is important to make others aware of your existence. You need to be your own best marketer and best public relations person by any means. How? I always try to keep an open communication channel with my contacts, even if it is just to say hi from time to time (this is easier if you are also connected on social networks, yet you can also use IM or make a phone call).
Another thing I learned soon enough was that my business cards needed to have a picture (making sure nobody forgets who I am even as time goes by). You’re networking with a purpose: to increase your customer base, your collaborations or your visibility.
These are, without a doubt, the best part of networking. People with different skills and different backgrounds gather together with a common objective. It’s a strange (and connected) world we live in, and you never know where you can find a partner for a project or for developing an idea.
One last piece of advice: don’t think that growing a healthy crowded network takes a week. It will require time and effort, but I am sure it will be worth it.
Originally published at www.linkedin.com on April 6, 2015.
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