4 STEPS TO SECURING YOURSELF A NETWORK

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By Brailyn Hardy

In a world where we are constantly connecting via social media, face-to-face networking can sometimes fall to the wayside. It’s easy to put off and even easier to do when hiding behind a computer screen but there are so many benefits to breaking out of your shell and attending that networking opportunity you have been dreading. Face-to-face networking showcases that sparkling personality you have, builds more meaningful relationships and allows you to cover more ground in a shorter period of time without a chain of email threads. 

Step 1. Have a go-to: Before you enter any potential networking environment take a few minutes and come up with a conversation starter or question. I try to read up on current events before heading into the danger zone so I am prepared to participate in a conversation if someone brings up a trending topic. 

A few of my other favorite questions depending on the situation are: 

  • How long have you been in Birmingham and what brought you here?
  • What do you do?
  • What brought you to this event tonight?

Step 2. Break out of your comfort zone: Regardless if  you know 1 or 100 people in the room, I try to treat every networking situation the same. Always greet previous connections first to maintain that relationship you worked so hard to establish then try to build on it by having them introduce you to people they know. In a situation where you don’t know a soul? Take a deep breath and smile. This friendly expression says your approachable and interested in meeting new people then approach a group and use the skills you learned in step one. 

Step 3. Actually listen: Sometimes I get so caught up in focusing on what to talk about next I forget to ACTUALLY listen to what someone is saying about themselves. Asking questions and nodding here and there helps you stay alert and shows you are actively interested in what they are saying. Try to avoid those repetitive nervous gestures like fixing your hair, jewelry or clothing and a huge no to my worst habit - picking at my nails. It makes me (or you) seem uninterested in the current conversation.

Step 4. Following up: Because I know you asked your new connection for a business card, follow up with them relatively quickly. I tend to make the first move simply by following them on social media or connecting with them on LinkedIn. If you do go as far as emailing them, make sure you mention where you met and mention the topic of your conversation. Remember it’s not an either-or when choosing networking online or face-to-face. It is both.