Follow these simple steps to make your networking more productive

Let’s face it. Most people, when asked, say they hate networking events.  They say they feel awkward and uncomfortable, and conversations can seem forced.  But people will also say that networking is critical to growing their business.

Rajiv Jadhav

So how do you turn what can often feel like a negative experience into a winning strategy?  Stage2Startups talked with Rajiv Jadhav, a master networker and founder of Dynamite Networking Group, to get his tips on how to network more effectively whether in person or online. Follow these simple steps before you go or log on, and you may find that networking is not only productive, it can actually be fun.

Know Your Goal

Too often, people enter the room without a plan, but if you establish your goal for the event in advance, your interactions will ultimately be more productive.  “Get into the right mindset as you prepare for the event,” says Rajiv. “Before you even arrive, know what you want to achieve and establish your goal. You need to ask yourself, ‘What do I want from this?’”

Have A Strategy

Think about who you want to meet and why you want to meet them.  Go through the attendee list in advance and identify the people you would like to meet. You can still make a plan even if there isn’t an attendee list. “If there is no list,” says Rajiv, “think about the type of person who you want to meet such as people in sports marketing or attorneys. That way, when you enter the room your interactions can be more focused and intentional, leading to more productive conversations. And don’t worry if you end up in conversations with people who don’t meet your criteria.  “Simply, excuse yourself after a few minutes. People expect conversations to be time limited. That’s what networking events are designed for,” notes Rajiv.

Prepare Your Introduction

Never quite sure how to introduce yourself?  “Spend some time thinking about who you are, what you do and the benefits your company provides from the perspective of the people you want to meet,” suggests Rajiv. “Think about how you want to be remembered when they think of you or hear your name,” he adds.   Then, craft your “elevator speech”.  This should be a brief, concise and engaging statement explaining who you are and what you do.  Be sure to avoid acronyms or industry speak. You want to use language that is easily understood by someone who isn’t in your industry.

Make It A Conversation

At the end of the day, networking is about establishing connections. Spend the time asking questions and listening to them. Too often, people are so intent on conveying their information that they forget to engage their listener. “Remember, your goal is to meet the person first and the business person second,” says Rajiv.  “Move your conversation beyond the transactional level and strive to establish a personal connection.” People need to establish a personal connection with you before they will feel comfortable working with you or referring you to others.

Networking requires work but it doesn’t need to be hard.  With some upfront planning, you can feel confident when you enter the room or zoom call knowing you are prepared to turn every interaction into a meaningful business connection.

Want to practice your networking skills? Meet fellow founders at our Stage2Startups in-person networking and online watercooler events. Learn more at Stage2Startups.org.

Copyright 2022: Emelie Smith Calbick and Betty Wong

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