10 networking tactics that most people screw up

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David Spark

We all network, but we don’t all do it effectively. In fact, most of us are really bad at it. That’s very odd, as almost all of us are out there schmoozing and connecting with people.

I have become better at networking over the years. What I’m truly surprised by are all the commonsense elements of networking that are completely lost on people. Here are 10 things that most people should be doing—or doing better.

1. Press the flesh.

The core to networking is meeting people face to face. Except for rare occasions, such as long-distance online romances, all the friends and business colleagues that we trust we’ve met in person. If you think you can be an effective networker solely by engaging in social media, you’re sorely wrong. You have to get out and press the flesh.

2. Stop staring at your phone.

The worst offenders are people working a booth at a trade show. Nothing screams, “I don’t want to talk with you, and I’m too scared to talk with anyone,” more than staring at your phone. You’re blowing an amazing opportunity every time you stare at your phone at an event where you could make a true connection with someone walking by. Stop doing it.

3. Always have business cards.

This should be as basic as remembering to bring your driver’s license, credit cards, and money in your wallet. Make sure you always have business cards, especially if you’re attending a conference or trade show. Bring more than you think you’ll need. I am always stunned when I go to a conference and someone doesn’t have business cards. How do you expect someone to follow up with you? You can’t, because they won’t. But that’s often not an issue given the next technique.

4. Always follow up.

This is the core of all networking: following up. If you don’t do it, you might as well never have met the person. I would estimate that one out of 20 people I hand my business card to follows up. Collecting business cards without following up is a wasted engagement. It only takes days for the person to completely forget meeting you. If you follow up with some level of context of your meeting it increases the value and impact of the meeting. To remember that meeting, take notes on the business card.

When you do follow up, be specific about your follow up. Don’t just say, “Nice to have met you,” or, “We should meet for coffee sometime,” because that now puts the onus on the other person to set up the meeting and discuss its purpose. That’s quite a burden. If you want that to happen, you need to set the place, time, and purpose of the discussion.

5. Add to your address book/CRM program.

If you’re going to follow up with someone, you must capture them in your contact manager or, better, in your customer relationship management (CRM) program, whose main function is to help you manage connections and follow up with those connections.

6. Respond when someone follows up.

Similar to the above, I’m always astonished when I send a follow-up email to someone I just met the day before and they don’t even respond. I would say that at best one out of four people respond to a personal follow-up email. The lack of response is a slap in the face. It would be the equivalent of walking away from a conversation midsentence. We never do that, because it’s rude. It’s also rude if you don’t respond to a follow-up email.

7. Listen.

Yes, it’s good to be directed about what you’re doing and have focus, but you’ll be a far more effective networker and make better connections if you simply listen to others. If someone else isn’t as much a talker as you are, then ask questions. Pull them out of their shell; that will let you to listen to them. Networking is not an opportunity for you to spout out marketing copy that you hope someone else will absorb. Your job is to listen and create a relationship first.

8. Get people to like you.

This should be your top priority. Any objective or goal you may have can be extremely simplified if you just get people to like you. If people don’t know you, don’t trust you, or, worse, don’t like you, then making a true connection or selling them anything will be an uphill battle.

9. Follow on social media.

Social media affords us the ability to maintain connections with hundreds if not thousands of people through ambient intimacy. That’s the ability to know and converse with someone through a general open social conversation, most notably through Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The only way you can continue this social conversation is to follow people in all these social spaces. Offer your links to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and ask for theirs in return.

10. Follow up—again.

Though you can’t keep following up with everyone, the point of networking is to maintain those relationships. Social media will probably be the most effective and efficient way to do this. That means you need to actually respond to people’s Facebook posts, Tweets, and LinkedIn questions. But once again, if you want to make true relationships you need to go back to step 1 and press the flesh.

Conclusion: Networking takes work, but it pays off.

Networking is hard work, and though I admit that I make mistakes with some of the above techniques, I have adhered to them as solidly as possible for six years. The payoff for me has been tremendous. It will pay off for you as well. And if you do it right, it’s actually a lot of fun. What’s not to like about schmoozing and meeting new people?

This article was originally a report published by Spark Media Solutions’ David Spark (@dspark) for Intertainment Media‘s Ingaged Blog, makers and distributors of the KNCTR and Ortsbo. 

10 ways to know when a millennial becomes an adult

Jessica Levco

We know you’re old enough to be considered an adult.

But when you start to compare your lifestyle to other people in your PR or communications office, do you ever feel like you’re faking it?

A lot of your co-workers are married, pop out babies, talk about their mortgage, worry about retirement, and spend their weekends at Little League practice.

And even though you’re only a few years younger than them, you sometimes feel like you’re in College 2.0. You’re still renting an apartment, staying out until 3 a.m. on Saturdays, and just recently mastered the art of boiling water (for your Ramen Noodles).

But even though you haven’t hit the traditional milestones that signify adulthood, you might be starting down that path—whether you like it or not.

Here are 10 ways to know if you’re becoming an adult in the PR or communications field.

Finding a steady job—and something that you like. A lot of your friends might be stuck in a dead-end job or working on something they are passion-less about. This feeling of aimlessness will make them feel more childlike. Don’t fall into the trap. If you’re already thinking that you don’t enjoy your workday, it’s your responsibility to make the change.

Moving to a new city. Speaking of changes, this is one of the most adult moves you can ever make. Especially if you’re doing it solo. Just the act of figuring out how to take apart your dresser drawer will make you feel like a competent 40-year-old.

Being financially responsible. Don’t ignore your HR manager when it’s time to sign up you’re your company’s 401K plan. Take $100 out of your pay check each month and put it into your savings account. When you get older, you’ll thank your younger self for being so prudent.

Being financially irresponsible, too. Remember: It’s OK to enjoy your money. If you want to order filet mignon every once in a while, we won’t tell.

Not asking for permission. Unless you’re defaming your company or selling insider information, try to see what you can do without constantly asking for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from your boss. As a millennial, you’re young, fresh, and eager—see how much you can get away with. (Example: We started Ragan’s Millennial Mafia before we told our CEO what we were up to.)

Going to networking events alone. This is one of the greatest, boldest things you can do for your career. If you tag around with co-workers, you’ll only end up talking to them. If you go by yourself, you’ll be forced to talk to people you normally might not get the chance to meet.

Being careful using social media. You know you’re growing up when you de-tag pictures of yourself from doing keg stands, playing beer pong or holding up a ‘Stop’ sign you stole. But be careful: Office holiday pictures can be just as scandalous.

Choosing your own vacation. For most of your life, you’ve taken trips with your friends or with your family, but adulthood is the chance to do something for yourself. Study a new language.  Save your money. Pick a place. Go. See what happens next.

Updating your wardrobe. You know you’re on the verge of adulthood when you get rid of all those Abercrombie sweaters you wore in high school. Look through some fashion magazines and figure out your own style to wear in the office.

Making a commitment to something for longer than a year. Mine was a three-year subscription to The New Yorker. I probably won’t be living in the same apartment complex three years from now, but there’s something gratifying about making a long-term commitment to something that I enjoy. Plus, I saved $30.