By George Slaughter
In turbulent economic times, the value of networking takes on an even greater importance. Here are five tips for more effective networking.
1. Master your elevator speech.
People often view the “elevator speech” to be a one-sentence response when asked what they do—for example, “I’m a technical writer.” While such a statement might be accurate, it often doesn’t resonate with the person to whom you’re speaking, and might present a missed opportunity to make a connection. Writer Bob Bly, in a recent video prepared for American Writers and Artists, Inc. (AWAI), offers a three-part approach to developing your elevator speech. You begin with a question, explain what you do, and then state the benefit. Here’s an example:
JOHN: “Marsha, tell me about you.”
MARSHA: “John, do you know how companies must protect their computer networks from viruses?”
MARSHA: “I create documentation that supports the software these professionals use. This documentation helps them save time, money, and headaches.”
Marsha asked the question to establish a context. Then she described what she did, and then she described how it was useful to people.
2. Make the most of business cards.
Have your business cards ready to hand out at every opportunity. When you receive a card form someone, write on the back of the card any pertinent information, such as where you met this person, reminders to follow up as needed, and so on. If you’re between opportunities, create your own business cards. Software programs easily enable you to create such cards. Be sure to include relevant information—name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, and web site if possible.
Don’t go overboard with unnecessary graphics. Some cards have icons with a person’s initial (“G” for George, for example), but the graphic is secondary to your name and contact information.
If you’re creating your own business cards, use a professional and not a frivolous e-mail address. For example, one would use firstname.lastname@example.org and not email@example.com.
3. Make the most of social media.
When researching a potential employer, job seekers first look at that company’s web site, along with news sites featuring information about that company. (If a company lacks a web site, you might question that company’s legitimacy in the first place.) On a personal level, social media such as Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and having one’s own blog or web site enable you to share your story your way. You control the content. Design your social media to present a positive, professional image. Prospective employers can and do check these sites.
4. Perform at least one networking activity a day.
This kind of activity is often neglected in the daily press of business. Such an activity might include attending a professional association meeting or luncheon—either in your own association or with a group of people you wish to know better. It could be forwarding an article that you think might be of interest, either printed or online, to a colleague. Include with the article a brief note such as, “John, I thought you’d enjoy this article,” and your signature. Such activities take only a few minutes each day, but they benefit you by keeping your name in front of people. It prevents the “out of sight, out of mind” situations. And you won’t feel overwhelmed by trying to keep up with a long and hopefully growing list of contacts.
5. Keep an open mind.
Talented writers write about any number of subjects. For example, you might be asked to write about nanotechnology, even if you are not writing about it today. When you meet people in professions with which you’re not familiar, take the time to learn about those fields. What do professionals in that field read? Do they meet, or have an association—and if so, what are the details? What kind of informational materials, or other services you could provide, do these people need to be successful? How can what you’re doing be of benefit to these individuals, their companies, or their profession? When you forward articles to these people, use the opportunity to establish an ongoing conversation.
By following these tips, you can more effectively keep your name in front of other professionals in your field and set the stage for future opportunities.
About the Author
George Slaughter is a writer, editor, and content strategist. His web site is georgeslaughter.com.