Networking helps whether you are applying for your dream school, looking for a new job, starting your own business, or just meeting people at a work gathering.
Unless you’re a social butterfly, though, networking probably doesn’t exactly come to you naturally.
In this article, we’re going to give you the 9 best networking tips to help you grow your professional and personal network!
9 Top Networking Tips
Networking is defined as the process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.
This means that networking skills are tightly linked to communication skills and interpersonal skills and they come in handy in all sorts of situations, including academic and professional environments, as well as parties and social events.
So, without further ado, let’s go over the top networking tips to use in your daily life:
#1. Dress with intention
The concept of “dress to impress” is nothing new. Research on first impressions suggests that physical appearance plays a big part in non-verbal communication. In other words, most people will decide if they like you before you even say a word.
So, when you are dressing for an event (be it professional, like a conference, or social, like a house party) it helps to think about how you want to be perceived.
Are you aiming for warm, but professional? Or, maybe, approachable and fun? Whatever it is, make sure to dress the part.
Additionally, the clothing you wear affects how you feel about yourself. Are you going to be meeting a potential employer? Maybe, to calm the nerves, you can wear your lucky socks or a dress shirt that makes you feel sophisticated and self-assured.
On the other hand, avoid wearing clothes that require a lot of adjustment and/or make you feel uncomfortable. After all, you don’t want to spend the whole evening afraid of having a wardrobe malfunction instead of networking.
#2. Visualize the outcome
After you have decided how you want to look, spend a few minutes thinking about the aim of your networking. This primarily includes setting your goals and intentions.
Some things you should consider are:
- Who exactly do you want to talk to?
- Are you interested in making as many new connections as possible or are you focusing on creating few but meaningful ones?
- Do you want to be remembered as someone approachable and easy-going or strictly as a goal-oriented professional?
- Most importantly, what do you want to get out of networking? New professional connections? Friends in a company you want to work for? Future (potential) business partner?
Setting your networking intentions will help you navigate each conversation with more purpose, thus making it easier to achieve your goals.
#3. Smile and wave
OK, waving is obviously optional, but smile you must—it goes hand-in-hand with non-verbal communication. After all, no one is inclined to talk to someone who looks annoyed or angry.
A reassuring smile upon making eye contact, on the other hand, is the easiest way to encourage people to talk to you because it serves as a sign that you are open to interaction.
You can practice your moves in the mirror before you go out so that your smile comes effortlessly and looks as natural as possible.
#4. Be aware of your body language
Just like with your facial expressions, your body language can help you look approachable, but it can also make you look grumpy, or anti-social.
For example, if you walk around hunched over with your arms crossed across your chest, most people will likely assume that you are not particularly open to talking. So even if they are interested in networking with you, they might be cautious to approach you.
So, keep these in mind the next time you set out to network:
- Keep your back straight at all times.
- When someone approaches you, turn your body fully towards to show them that they have your undivided attention.
- Don’t scan the room or lose eye contact when you are talking to someone. It will be perceived as rude 99% of the time.
#5. Prepare a safety net
Now, say that your body language and smiling upon making eye contact with people don’t yield any quality networking. It’s time to make your move.
So, instead of coming up with ways to strike a conversation with other attendees on the spot, prepare a list of conversation-starters in advance.
We know this one sounds easier said than done, so consider the following:
- If you’re attending a networking event, you can walk up to anyone and say “Hi, I do not think we've met yet. My name is …”
- If you are at a job fair, you can state your full name and professional title, such as “Hi, I am Olivia Jones and I work in marketing…”
- If you are in a more social setting, introducing yourself is your best bet: “Hi, my name is John Smith, where do you know the birthday girl from?”
Walking up to people and introducing yourself makes you come across as confident and genuine, so people are more likely to react positively to your efforts.
However, also keep in mind that there are plenty of ways one can start a conversation, such as by giving a compliment, sharing an observation, or asking advice. So, if introducing yourself feels too direct or awkward to you, consider any of the alternatives we just mentioned.
#6. Talk about their favorite subject
Research suggests that people LOVE talking about themselves. So, here’s another essential networking tip: use this to your advantage.
When networking, talk to the other person about their passions, hobbies, dreams, and goals. We know there are countless ways to go about these topics, so are some of our favorite go-to questions to get people talking about what drives them:
- “What brings you here?”
- “What are the three things that you enjoy most in life?”
- “What do you do for fun?”
- “What do you do for work? What’s it like?”
On the same note, people also really like hearing the sound of their own names. So try to remember the names of the people you talk to and mention them in conversation. They are more likely to listen and remember you later.
#7. Ask open-ended questions
During a conversation try to avoid asking yes or no questions. They can cause the interaction to feel really dry or come to a sudden halt.
So, instead of asking someone:
“Do you like this?”
“What do you find interesting about this?”
The second is an open-ended question that allows the speaker to answer more thoroughly than through a simple yes or no.
As a rule of thumb, “what?” “how? and “why?’ follow-up questions are much more engaging and encouraging when it comes to networking.
#8. Listen, actively
Active listening is what separates hearing from understanding. And while everyone likes to feel heard, it feels even better to be understood. Get this right and your networking game will automatically improve.
The thing is, the occasional nod is not going to keep your conversation partner engaged. If they are sharing something, ask them follow-up questions for details. If they seem passionate about a certain topic, ask them to tell you more about it.
Additionally, if they share some personal details about what they like, take a mental (or maybe even physical note). Then, when writing a follow-up email or message you can mention it, thus making the follow-up more personal and memorable.
#9. Follow up or be forgotten
If any interesting or beneficial encounter leads to exchanging numbers, social channels, or business cards, it is highly important to solidify the connection by following up after the initial meeting.
To serve this purpose, It is best not to wait more than a couple of days to follow up, so your encounter is still fresh in their memory.
Additionally, when you send your message or email, make sure to let them know how you’ve enjoyed talking to them and maybe even mention something relevant to that conversation.
Then, when the time is right, you could invite them for coffee to further build on the relationship.
5 Top Virtual Networking Tips
Virtual networking can help you reach people worldwide with the click of a button, opening the door to amazing networking prospects that aren't always available locally.
According to Kaltura's research, over 75% of participants prefer virtual networking meetings to in-person ones.
Virtual networking, however, comes with its own set of challenges, such as adjusting to the medium and learning to read virtual social cues.
In this section, we’ll give you all the tips you need to be successful at virtual networking, starting with:
#2. Use networking apps
To make the most of your virtual networking experience, you should explore beyond social media sites. Today, a growing number of apps offer great tools for effective virtual networking.
Take a look at our selection of the best apps that can help you grow your professional circle:
- Shapr is a networking app that is now booming. Often called “Tinder for business connections”, the app shows you 15 relevant connections daily, which you can accept or decline. Once you've found your ideal match, strike up a discussion and add the person to your network.
- Invitly is another great option. This networking software makes virtual networking possible by putting you in touch with professionals in your field. The app offers mentorship and training opportunities, exclusive access to workshops and online seminars, and more.
- Lunchclub also helps you meet new people virtually. After successfully matching with other professionals in your field, you can schedule one-on-one video meetings.
- With Fishbowl, you can connect with people in your industry regardless of your level of seniority. By joining this growing community, you could easily get guidance from CEOs and industry experts in your field.
- Clubhouse helps you form meaningful connections by joining millions of interest-specific rooms filled with fascinating and beneficial conversations.
So, if you're looking to embark on your virtual networking journey, make sure to give at least one of these networking apps a shot.
#3. Attend online networking events
The virtual conferencing market is now booming. A growing number of virtual events allow you to connect with business executives from around the world.
So, if you want to benefit from one-of-a-kind networking opportunities, here are some of the best online events you could attend:
- The Startup Grind Conference, held between February 28 and March 2, intends to bring together 15,000 participants to explore the future of our digitized world, concentrating on human-centric solutions. Join the conference if you'd like to connect with hundreds of entrepreneurs from around the world.
- SaaStr Annual is the largest community of Software as a Service (SaaS) entrepreneurs. On September 13, 2022, SaaStr will host its annual virtual conference featuring 150+ speakers from the leading SaaS firms worldwide. Join if you'd like to take advantage of exclusive networking opportunities, mentorship and collaboration meetings, and more.
- TBM group aims to support sustainable business development by holding top-notch conferences and sharing industries' best practices. Participants can establish key partnerships and generate lucrative leads. Browse their industry-specific conferences here.
If you want to join virtual events that focus on a specific industry, just search Google and you'll discover your perfect match in no time.
#4. Know how to present yourself
The success of your virtual networking experience is equivalent to the amount of time and effort you put into it.
Whether you're chatting one-on-one with a new acquaintance or participating in a large-scale virtual conference, you should come across as passionate and competent.
You can never go wrong with crafting an elevator pitch - a short, persuasive speech meant to attract people's interest in you.
Remember, knowing how to “sell” yourself online - be it through an elevator pitch or through your own personal brand - can make or break your virtual networking efforts.
#5. Dress professionally
Alas, the virtual networking format does not mean showing up for your meeting in a funny sweatshirt. Your apparel should be professional, just as it would be for any in-person networking event.
Your attire can impact someone’s first impression of you and that won’t change if they’re seeing you through a computer screen.
So, make sure that you look presentable. Specifically, that means giving yourself some time for a coffee and a mirror checkup before you join any virtual networking event or online conference.
FAQs on Networking Tips
And that about sums up our top networking tips!
In case you have some lingering questions, here’s a FAQ:
#1. How can I improve my networking skills?
Here are some networking tips to improve your networking:
- Start by talking to more strangers to get used to the feeling,
- Visualize the outcome of your networking
- Prepare a safety net that will allow you to initiate conversations effortlessly
- Practice active listening.
- Make networking a habit. It’s not something that you learn in a day. So, attend networking events whenever you have an opportunity and practice your skills.
#2. What are the top 5 networking skills?
In order to get good at networking, you should possess the following skills:
- Communication skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Active listening skills
- Non-verbal communication skills
- Social skills
#3. Is networking difficult to learn?
It is relatively easy to learn the theory behind networking. Getting really good at it, though, is a completely different topic.
As with most social skills, theory comes easy—practice is what’s difficult. That said, the more often you practice networking and attend networking events, the sooner you’ll master it!
#4. What are four ways to network for a job?
When it comes to strictly professional environments, some networking tips are more beneficial than others. Our top 4 tips for networking for a job are:
- Dress with intention, because first impressions DO matter. Think about how you want to be perceived and choose your clothes accordingly.
- Prepare a safety net that will make it easier for you to strike a conversation. Think about the ways you can introduce yourself and topics to discuss.
- Be aware of your body language. When you’re networking, keep your back straight and your eyes focused on your talking partner. Don’t hunch your shoulders or look at your phone the entire time, cause that will be considered rude in 99% of cases.
- Listen actively to keep your talking partner engaged. This means paying attention and asking questions or making comments, instead of just giving the occasional nod and a smile.
Speaking of job search - are you having difficulties landing your dream job? Check out our guide to job hunting & learn how to stand out in the competitive job market!
And that’s a wrap! By now, you should feel confident to go out there and apply the networking tips we just covered.
Before you go, though, here’s a quick summary of some of our best tips:
- When you go to a networking event, consider how you want to be perceived and what your networking goals are, and dress accordingly.
- Visualize the outcome of your networking. Do you want to make professional connections? Or do you just want to meet new people? No matter the case, thinking about the desired outcome will make it easier to achieve it.
- Smile. It’s a universal sign of openness, empathy, and communication.
- Ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions (e.g. “how?” “why?” and “what”) urge the speaker to express their thoughts and opinions, and engage in the conversation.
- Follow up. Networking is about creating and solidifying connections. For the latter to happen, make sure to follow up through email, text, or a phone call, to the people who made an impression on you.