One of the key elements of business events, including conferences and other training sessions, is networking. Networking is essential to youth and family service providers as it connects peers to information and resources. Networking is a core component of NSPN and drives the “Your needs. Your network. Together we can!” motto.
Because networking is critical, we’ve provided ten networking tips below. If you’d like to discuss more ways to network with others, connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Be authentic. Sometimes individuals use networking as a means to develop business connections. NSPN believes networking should be about developing relationships. Relationships are deeper connections you create when you actually care about the success of each other and not just using each other as a “business connection.”
- Know who you are. When someone asks about your organization, do you know how to answer this question – quickly? Work with your supervisor or marketing team to learn your organization’s elevator pitch. This pitch offers cues to individuals and encourages them to invest their time in you.
- Re-connect. Sometimes, it’s easier to start connecting by re-connecting. If you see a familiar face or someone you know and haven’t seen since last year – say hi. Get caught up with what you’ve both been up to. Make sure to jot their number down and check in from time to time.
- Own your awkwardness. If you’re awkward, own it. You’re not the only one that can sense you’re uncomfortable. Say it out loud, “I’m sorry, I’m so awkward at this! But I really want to connect with you because we have this in common – do you have a second?” Owning your awkwardness lightens the conversation early so everyone can focus on what’s actually important. Chances are – they’re uncomfortable with networking too and you both will be relieved.
- Small talk is OK. Sometimes, it’s easier to have some conversation starters ready. It’s as easy as just saying hello, talking about the weather, or offering a compliment. Asking for advice opens the door for great conversation as well.
- Communicate. “Is that your final answer?” There’s a ton of information out there! Don’t accept yes or no as a final answer. Ask open-ended questions. By doing so, someone has the opportunity to share new information you may find useful. Keep in mind; it’s important to be able to quickly articulate what information you’re interested in.
- Share and Receive. Networking is a two-way street. Working together by sharing and listening will result in more effective conversations and results.
- Don’t leave empty-handed. When you meet someone, ask for their business card or contact information. Make a note on the back about the person you met so you can use it to build your relationship. Don’t forget to ask for their social media handle! Social networking is an easy way to keep in touch.
- Plan for the future. Don’t just say “nice knowing you.” Identify some ways you can help each other and plan a call or an email in the future to follow-through on supporting each other.
- Thank you. Showing appreciation for someone’s time and discussion goes a long way. Relationships are built on support and respect.