The How, Where and Why of Networking

Have you heard people say they’re a right-brain or left-brain thinker? Right-brained thinkers tend to be creative and instinctual, left-brainers more analytical and logical. That’s how “Beauty and the Brain,” from the minds of Christy Lamagna and James Rota, was born. James’ creativity and vision mesh with Christy’s logistics focus and strategic thinking to bring a well-rounded approach to their events. These columns are designed to highlight both sides of the planning process.

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Beauty logo smallNetworking is not only one of the most important tools in your toolbox, it is an art form. Many organizations hold networking events on a regular basis. I could spend every evening at one. The truth is that networking should not be set aside for professional events, it should be practiced and used with every interaction you have.

Let me ask you this: Do you think your needs, wants and desires will materialize if you share them with no one? The answer, probably not. But when you break down the essence of networking, you’ll find a simple truth. It’s about sharing your needs, wants and desires with others so you can lessen your degree of separation from them. For the best results, networking takes practice. First, step out of your box and network with people you don’t already know. (In most cases, people you know should already have the inside scoop.) Next, find a variety of people with different backgrounds and skills to network with. If you only network with other planners, chances are no one will grow their business.

The first few steps are getting to know one another, establishing common goals, and then collaborating toward them. We are all unique. Ask yourself what makes you interesting and worth knowing? What about you makes you stand out and be memorable? Is it something you do or some special knowledge? Find that something and use it into your narrative to engage people and have them asking questions. Keep your narrative relevant and flexible to your audience. Start by looking for things that you have in common. This creates a bond, giving you the opportunity to move forward.

Don’t know where to start? A rule of thumb is to ask open-ended question and listen carefully for clues that link your commonalities. Don’t be afraid of rejection and always ask for, and offer, a business card. Don’t worry about your goal while networking. Relax and enjoy the process. This will let the conversation flow more naturally without that “pushy” sales feeling.

An easy way to start is to promise yourself you will collect six new business cards or set up two “meet for coffee” dates by the end of the event. The last — and one of the most important — rules of great networking is to send follow-up emails to your most promising contacts, then immediately enter their information on your PC and mobile device. This will set the level of your professionalism and give you the ability to reach out again.

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Networking is a key life skill. It’s not something you do just for work or because you need something. Your “circle” is the spine of your personal and professional life.

Need a reliable doctor? You call someone you know for a recommendation. Need a tip for a great hotel in Italy or for an honest mechanic? You’ll likely ask someone you trust. That’s your circle at work. The goal is for you to get calls seeking your advice and expertise. You want to be seen as the go-to person as often as possible. Bottom line, when people turn to you for advice, it means you are respected and top of mind. It starts with a smile and ends with you being a consistently reliable and trusted resource. Be the person everyone wants to know, and your network will grow exponentially.

Until next time, remember, smart is beautiful!