3 tips for networking online and offline

In this day of LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook and Twitter it might seem that networking the old fashioned way is dying. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Many real life social interactions arise from these online networks. The old fashioned networking skills actually assist in both the effective use of these online networking platforms as well as during real life meetups.

Lots of people over the years have said how much they hate walking into an event or function where they don’t know anyone. That feeling of fear is a familiar one for most of us.

Often they are offered some well meaning advice like: ‘just treat people the way you would like to be treated’.

The obvious riposte to this is that it’s not about how you want to be treated so much as about how the other person wants to be treated. The trick is that most of us are not psychic & thus have little clue how other people want to be treated.

But the good thing about this is that it gives us a topic of conversation with everyone we meet, finding out how they want to be treated.  Here’s some tips based on my own experience of online and offline networking:

1) Be yourself

It takes a huge amount of energy and a really good memory to be someone or something you’re not – this makes being yourself a sensible option.  Also people will eventually realise what you are really like if they have any kind of repeated exposure to you. Thus it’s just as well to start as you mean to go on.

2) Listen

Being interested in other people is very attractive.  Most people like to feel as if they matter and the easiest way to demonstrate this is to listen to them rather than talking yourself.  Even chatterboxes like me need to give this one a whirl.  Listening includes non-verbal signals too, such as body language for real life meetings.

3) Respond

Responding to the other person is important and this can take various forms.  Sometimes it is about following the other person’s lead on a topic of conversation or mode of communication.  Other times it is about taking the lead yourself and starting a new topic, or even backing off and leaving the person alone.

Responding is very closely bound to listening, since listening provides the feedback to enable creation of an appropriate response.

A good tip

One of the best tips I ever had on networking in real life came from networking guru Robyn Henderson – she advised when you are off to a function “arrive early and act like the host”. Her rationale for this was that most people are terrified of meeting new people and having someone act as the host and break the ice was helpful to them.