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Via LinkedIn : I recently attending what would traditionally be called a networking event. It was a event put on by a non-profit focused on women in a particular industry where somewhere around 125+ people attended. So it was large enough that you wouldn’t know everyone. In fact, I didn’t know anyone. And, I went alone. Now, would I have liked to bring a friend along? Sure. It is always fun to go to things with friends and certainly in a place where I knew no one, it would have been a great security blanket. But, here’s the thing – had I brought a friend along, I may have felt more comfortable BUT I would have been a lousy networker that night. So even though it is not officially one of the tips, I encourage everyone to go solo to networking events every now and then. When you go with a friend, you can easily stay in your own comfortable space. When you go alone, you have to meet people and, by doing do, increase your network. Here are five ways to embrace, if not enjoy, large group networking.

First, do and go to things that you LIKE to do. The event I went to recently was a completely different industry but I was passionate about the evening topic and anxious to dialogue about it. I knew that even though I didn’t share industry experience, I definitely would connect with the attendees based on the topic. You may have a hobby, a cause, an interest that you would do regardless of if you were going to make a connection and those are the events you should attend. They can come in all shapes and sizes – charity event, kid activities, sport club, department happy hour, etc. Go to something you care about and you are much more likely to enjoy yourself and connect with others who feel the same way.

Second, enter the room/space with confidence. Confidence is a big theme for me right now. In a nutshell, you get confidence by doing something. Not thinking about it, not planning for it, but taking action and jumping right in. This is a common theme with the clients I work with and it not only applies to networking but also being confident about themselves, their work, etc. Before you go into the room/space, take one or two deep breaths. Then, when you enter, be the person that has their head up, scan the room while at the door (confidently, not like you look lost) and comfortably walk toward an part of the room that looks inviting. People want to be around good energy. If you walk into the room looking lost or like you don’t belong, you will not attract others to you.

Third, make the first move. Remember, you are not the only one that came alone. When scanning the room, look for someone else that may be alone and strike up a conversation with them. It’s a great warm up to the evening. Don’t feel like you have to “work the room.” It is much more productive to strike up 2-3 real conversations at the event then rush around the room trying to meet a bunch of people whose names you can’t remember the next day much less trying to connect with them for professional reasons down the road. When it comes to networking connections, quality trumps quantity every time.

Fourth, be a good listener. When you strike up a conversation, make the conversation be about the other person. Be curious. Ask questions about them, their work, their personal interests. Listen for things that will create a connection between the two of you and go deep in that common space. For those of you that are introverts, don’t feel compelled to do all the talking. Ideally, you want an 80/20 mix. With you being a listener the majority of the time. And, for you extroverts that like to talk – remember, the more the OTHER person talks, the more they like you. Don’t worry about not telling them everything about yourself. If you make a good connection with someone, there will be other opportunities to tell them your story.

Finally, follow-up is key. You should follow-up from your interactions, in most cases, within 12 hours. The goal is not only to follow-up but be the first one to do so. So many people do not do the follow-up piece which makes future contact tough to establish. By following up, you give yourself the opportunity to have one more “touch” with that person. By being first, you are more likely to be remembered.

I love networking but I know not everyone does. The thing about networking is that it doesn’t have to be scary. It doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. When you take the right approach, you can find yourself enjoying the evening more than you thought you would and make some great connections along the way.

Kelly McClellan is a career and performance coach. Working with women professionals and leaders, she helps people actively manage their careers, inspire confidence and create alignment in their personal and professional lives.

Via LinkedIn : We’ve all heard about the importance of networking, but often people have a misconception about what good networking actually means.

As someone whose role has a lot to do with building a network of leaders, the mistake I often see people make when networking is approaching someone only because they think that person can do something for them or for their company.

The reality is – networking, like anything worth doing, is ultimately about creating value. It can’t be transactional. It has to be relational.

Hence, to be great at networking, you need to approach it with the opposite mindset — adding value to the person with whom you want to engage and engaging this person to help you add value to others in your network. From this perspective, networking goes from mindless small talk and transactions to a meaningful interaction and relationship building.

There are many things we possess that may be of potential value to the person. It can be experiences and perspectives that open a new way of thinking or an answer to a problem that they face. It can be another person in our network who might be of help to a problem they face. It can be something in our organization that hits a passion point for them.

But before we can understand how we can add value, we need to get to the heart of who they are and what they are about.

Here are a few pointers:

1. Resist the urge to talk about yourself and focus on them. The introvert in all of us and those adverse to small talk can breathe a sigh of relief here. A simple opener I often use is “Tell me your story.” If that seems too heavy, I might start off with a conversation about major sports news and then lead into their stories. I’ve found that talking about sports is not only an opening to building rapport, but people’s take on sports often reveal a great deal about their worldview. Sports is one of those rare neutral grounds that is at the same time, a passion point for many. It’s for this reason that friends and I started up The SportsQuip, a weekly e-brief on sports.

2. Listen actively. Listen for who they are, not their jobs or titles. The best people I know grab me in the first 15 minutes of conversation by bringing up their families. Pick up on the things that fire them up and ask more about those.

3. Ask intelligent questions. Good questions come from active listening and connecting the dots throughout the conversation. Through the questions, you can convey credibility and quite a bit about what you care about. Think about Barbara Walters and Oprah and how they engage with their guests.

4. Be judicious about whom you include in your network. My personal rule is no jerks. The integrity of your network is only as good as the quality and character of the people who are in it. Someone may be a CEO or a celebrity, but if he or she doesn’t have good values, it’s hard to genuinely engage or have a meaningful interaction. And we are all judged by the company that we keep.

5. Don’t be limited by you. We tend to gravitate towards those who seem most like us. That’s why at most events, people segregate by gender, race, culture, and even nationalities. Make a conscious effort to break the lines and seek out those who on the surface seem completely different from you. You may find you have a lot more in common than you thought.

6. Network with those behind you. People think about networking up and networking with peers. Think about networking with those whom you can help. We are all where we are because someone has helped us along the way. And good networks operate more like spheres rather than hierarchies in which value can come from any direction.

7. Conclude with an action item. For those whom we want who fit the values criteria and deepen the connection, end the conversation with a something that you can deliver in the short term. It can be an article that highlights a challenge they are facing, or an introduction to someone in your network who can be of mutual value to each other. Or it may be something you are working on that can help them with a problem.

So, you may ask, when is it about you? It’s not.

If you can add value, people will want to join your network, and they will find you invaluable. As you add more good people, they will act in kind and when you seek help on something, they know that you are someone worth helping.

Now, that is good networking.

Via Careerealism : Does networking scare you? You’re not alone.

Walking into a room of people you don’t know can be intimidating, but with a little preparation, much of that fear can be relieved.

Here are five things you can do before your next networking event:

1. Think Of Topics You Like To Discuss

How to start a conversation is a common fear among networkers. Tackle that fear by thinking of things that you like to discuss such as movies, books, hobbies, traveling, pets, or kids. This mental preparation helps with conversation starters.

2. Know Who Will Be At The Event

If at all possible, get a list of who will be attending. If you can’t obtain a list before the event, go a little early and ask the organizer for the information and then identify who you would like to meet. Look for people who are associated with organizations you would like to research or work for. Having a plan gives you a sense of purpose and eliminates the fear that you will be aimlessly walking around.

3. Know What Message You Want To Convey

You want people to know what your strengths are and what opportunities you are seeking. When people ask you what you do, be prepared to tell them what positions you are seeking, what companies you are targeting and what your talents are. This is sometimes known as an “elevator pitch” because it is short enough to say to someone that you meet in an elevator. You may want to practice it on a friend so that you feel comfortable with your delivery.

4. Track Your Contacts

The magic of networking is transforming a contact into a mutually beneficial relationship. The only way that can be done is if you follow up with the person. Ask for a business card or at least get an e-mail address. At home, either develop your own tracking system or choose one that you can use consistently. The most important thing that is you are able to easily find the contact information when you go to follow up with the person.

5. Know How You Will Follow Up

A way that I like to continue the relationship with a contact is to ask if they are on LinkedIn. If they are, I go home and immediately ask them to connect. If they aren’t on LinkedIn, I send them an email telling them how much I enjoyed meeting them. Depending on the person, I might also ask if they would like to meet for coffee. This is an easy way of furthering the relationship.

Networking is a wonderful way of building relationships. Use it to your advantage by being prepared. I also challenge you to be a little bold. The ancient Romans summed it up well with their axiom “Fortune favors the bold.”

Via LinkedIn : “I will only tell you if you promise not to laugh at me,” I told my fiancé. I was between jobs, and he had called me midday to see what I was doing. “I am hiding in bed with a pillow over my head because I’m afraid to start my job hunt. Everyone says ‘it’s about networking’ but I don’t know where to begin.”

Not long thereafter, a kind career counselor coached me in networking, a skill that’s helped me find jobs, investments, great people for the companies I invest in and partners. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Step 1: Sort Your List. As an engineer, I thought prioritizing outreach would be all about optimizing. I thought I should maybe start with less experienced people and work my way up within a target organization, or begin with less-desirable companies for practice, then get to the best employers. Or lead off with senior executives and have them hand me down to hiring managers. This was all wrong.

The optimal algorithm is one that keeps you networking even when you’re intimidated. Make a list of possibly relevant people you know, then start with the people you like on that list. Because you will enjoy those meetings, you will keep going. Connections, meetings and flow are your friend. Another key networking rule is to come out of each meeting with two more names. If you begin with people you enjoy, then add twice as many new people who you’re also likely to enjoy, your network of nice, helpful, connected individuals and organizations will grow exponentially. Somewhere in your growing community is the job or partner you are looking for.

Step 2: Be Efficient with Their Time. Just like in math class, doing your homework is essential for networking. Contact your prospect via a relevant channel, ideally through an introduction. If you have to “cold-outreach” to someone, use LinkedIn, or find his or her email. Ask for a short in-person meeting and fall back to a call if you must. Don’t offer breakfast, lunch or coffee—be clear that yours is going to be an efficient meeting.

In your email, share your background and goals, and why you are contacting him or her. Then, really prepare for your meeting or call; read up on the company, so you can ask good questions, not waste precious time discussing basic facts you could have found on the web. Asking open-ended questions, like “what kind of person is successful here?” is a much stronger conversation-starter than “do employees require a technical degree?”

Step 3: The Calculus of Conferences. If you are headed to an industry event to network, have a plan and follow it. Analyze the attendee or exhibitor list before you go, map the show floor, and follow your map to new meetings. If possible, send meeting requests before you leave, so you have some face- to-face chats lined up. A few simple tricks will make it easier for others to find and talk to you. Wear something bright, possibly quite bold. I have a rack of “Sharon’s conference jackets.” If I’m going someplace to network, I want to be easy to spot. Second, put your nametag on your right shoulder—don’t let it dangle down at your navel. People want to be able to read your nametag as they shake your hand. It’s loud, faces blur—make it easy for people you want to talk with to feel comfortable getting to know you.

Be personally present. Don’t shyly hide behind your phone. Make your visit worth it by being open to talking—or to asking open-ended questions, as I mentioned above. And, if you are just thrown into a giant clump of people at a cocktail party, you can always break the ice with conversational basics, then move on to business topics. It is OK to politely step away if it’s clear you and your chance encounter aren’t clicking.

Food is always a great networking draw; chat up the people you meet in the buffet line or the bar. At the Consumer Electronics Show this year, I met a very cool company by encouraging a group of tired attendees to share my table in a crowded cafeteria. We ended up hanging out for an hour comparing business models, and talking about entrepreneurs we knew. The time was productive for all of us, and we were all rejuvenated enough to dive back onto the show floor.

Via Entrepreneur : In their book Start Your Own Business, the staff of Entrepreneur Media Inc. guides you through the critical steps to starting your business, then supports you in surviving the first three years as a business owner. In this edited excerpt, the authors discuss the essential ways you should start promoting your business on social media.

The days of in-person networking are quickly being overpowered by connecting on the internet. In the past five years, connecting on social networking sites has rocketed from a niche activity into a phenomenon that engages tens of millions of internet users. Now, instead of connecting at an in-person event, you can reach hundreds, even thousands, of potential customers online. Social networking can help you reach new markets and enhance your customer service.

In today’s networking space, it’s important to know how to choose whom to connect with online. There are two different types of networkers online—the posters and the seekers. Your business is a poster, which means you actively post valuable information, resources, tips, and offers. The seekers are your customers—they’re actively seeking your products or services. You’ll find seekers in discussion areas, forums, groups and engaging on fan pages.

When searching for quality contacts to network with online, start with connection sites, such as LinkedIn or Xing, and look for high-level networkers (HLN). You’ll know an HLN when you see one; they’re active online, have at least 500 connections and have powerful profiles, which means their profiles are set up completely. Make sure these contacts have at least one of the three criteria before you connect with them online. Some examples of HLNs would be decision makers, executives, the media, and the movers and shakers in your industry.

Don’t let the fact that you don’t yet know the person hold you back from sending an invite to connect. Simply be transparent, and let them know why you’d like to connect with them online. Whether you’re offering your help, sending them a resource or introducing them to one of your connections, make sure you make it about how you can help them and not how they can help you.

Target market connections (TMC) are a group of consumers at which your company aims its products and services. They’re found by using keywords in the search section on social sites as well as in groups and discussion areas in your area of interest or focus. TMCs are mostly seekers that chat and seek out information by posting questions online. In the most basic terms, they’re seeking you. The key is to join in the groups and discussions where your target market is talking and engage with them. You can also send them an invite to connect and let them know you sent them the invite because you have similar interests and you’re looking to expand your professional network. You can also find these groups in sites like LinkedIn. Search for groups that match what you have to contribute and then check to see which have not just the largest member numbers, but also the most active discussions.

Another way to find your target market online is to investigate competitors’ marketing methods. See where another business that offers the same or similar products and services advertises their links and posts on social sites. Be sure each location makes sense and has a large contingent of people in your targeted market. Searching in your field will often turn up places where your audience goes when they’re looking for something in your industry.

Groups and Discussions

Groups and discussion areas on social sites are all over the internet from LinkedIn and Xing to Twitter and Facebook. Most social networking sites have community areas for people who have similar interests to gather and connect. It’s important to find a dozen or so of these groups and discussion areas and not only join and monitor them but engage in the conversations as well.

Blogs are another type of discussion forum on the internet. Blogs are quickly becoming places to interact with your target market. Technorati, a site focused on helping people find great blogs and content specific to their industry or topic, manages a list of the top 100 blogs, which is a great place to find the world’s most popular blogs on subjects you’re interested in. Not only can you find connections and blogs on this site, but you can also list your own blog so that people can search and find you.

Blogs are a great way to find HLNs to connect with online as well as partner with. For example, if you’re a restaurant, you could connect with food and review writers, vendors that are blogging, or food enthusiasts, and share their posts and content on your site or blog. This not only builds relationships but can expose you to their markets, followers and fans.

Fan Pages

With any social media platform, you need to be creative and find ways to provide value and engage your target market. One of the best ways to accomplish this and position yourself as an industry leader is to build and launch a Facebook fan page. Fans are enthusiastic, and if they like what they see and read, they’ll connect with you, become loyal supporters and tell their friends. This is how word-of-mouth will grow.

Once you get your fan page up and running, pay attention to your analytics, or what Facebook calls “Insights.” You can view specific demographic information, such as where your fans are from, their gender and their age. Monitor who’s becoming your fan, how they’re interacting and how often they’re posting. This will help you figure out who and where else you should be targeting online.

One of the main differences between a Facebook profile and a fan page is you can send bulk messages to all your fans. You can also “Suggest to Friends” that they join you on your fan page. It’s a great way to connect with your target market, especially since these are connections that have opted-in to become a part of your community.