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Networking 101: Building Connections that Matter

It can be an intimidating experience to walk into a strange setting full of new faces you hope to impress. You're not alone though. We've all had this experience before but with a few simple steps, you'll be ready to interact with just about anyone in this new group. As famed author and speaking coach Susan C. Young noted, "Mix, Mingle, Glow. Stretch beyond your own comfort zone to speak with, sit with and start conversations with people whom you do not know. Take the initiative to help other people capture the spotlight and shine." Networking is about building personal, human-to-human connections that go beyond business that allow you to be your authentic self.

Basic reminders to make your networking experience deliver:

  1. Be energized and confident. Be memorable for the right reasons. It's not who you know, it's who remembers you!
  2. Ask questions such as:
    • What company do you represent?
    • What products and services do you market?
    • Who are your competitors?
    • What other networking do you do?
  3. Show genuine interest, care and listen intently. It's about quality vs. quantity and one conversation at a time.
  4. Find something in common. People with the same interests establish a comfort zone and easily connect.
  5. Be prepared with business cards and a pen to make notes after you have spoken with someone you have met for the first time.
  6. Keep your radar on for ways to help a new contact, a business referral, a mentor, a specific resource they mentioned they needed.
  7. ALWAYS follow up with a note, email, connect on LinkedIn or Facebook, or give them a call and make an appointment to talk again.
  8. Be consistent. If you are attending a weekly networking breakfast or a monthly luncheon, make it a priority to be there regularly. That sign of reliability could easily earn you a new client.

Building relationships face to face, seeing someone's energy and looking eye to eye is a powerful exchange. Seek out places and activities that speak to who you are, and you will find new connections that can open doors, build your business and create valuable relationships.

As Maya Angelou once stated, "I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel."

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