Question: What is your best tip for effective networking?
Treat it Like Your FICO Score
"Networking is like building and maintaining your FICO score, it's an ongoing process so. You can ask for help which brings your score down. You can raise the score by paying off debt (returning the favor), you can do favors for your contacts or introduce them to each other for win-win arrangements. Remember, take a favor only if you need it and don't ruin your score by defaulting at payback."
Follow a Leader
"It's more difficult to work a room when you don't know anybody in it. Attend functions where you know a few people. I like to walk up to the person I know when they're speaking with a few other people. You end up getting a natural introduction that can lead to a trusted connection. Of course, working contacts is a whole new ballgame, but you have to meet them first. "
Don't Be Weird, Be Genuine
"Most folks can smell a "one-size-fits-all pitch" a mile away. Genuinely take interest in other people's endeavors. People appreciate others that see their vision and champion it. At the end of the day it’s not about how great you are. Seek to add value -- find ways to bring the advantage and not take it."
Go to the Right Events
"We've all been to events where it's just pitch after pitch, where everyone's looking over their shoulder for who they can talk to next, right? The best way to network effectively is to carefully select the events you attend. Ask peers and colleagues for their recommendations, and why. Only attend events which have the vibe you're looking for. Any others will likely be a waste of time."
"When you network, try to make friends, not colleagues. The best business associates -- people that you can trust and who trust you -- are the people who like you and who you like on a non-business level. Also, you can never have too many friends!"
Get Outside of Your Computer
"These days social networking is all of the rage. While networking online certainly has benefits, there's no substitute for meeting someone in person and actually shaking their hand. Without fail, contacts become many times more meaningful and beneficial when you met them in person. So don't be shy, start checking out events in your city."
Focus on Others, Instead of Yourself
"Listen to the needs of others and then do all you can to match your skills, resources and contacts to fulfill those needs. If you focus on the needs of others instead of your own, you will be surprised by the number of people who want to return the favor."
Follow Up and Organize Your Business Cards
"When I come home from a networking event with a handful of business cards, I always write the person a "nice to meet you note," maybe with a link or two that pertains to my work, and why I took interest in them. Everyone says they'll "be in touch" at these events, but it's really up to you to take the first step. I then make notes on the business cards and organize by category or industry."
"As an entrepreneur you are almost always pitching yourself and selling your business/product. But there is a fine line when it comes to networking and you have to be careful not to cross it. While you always want to be engaging, you never want to come off too "salesy." Business cards are great, but building a relationship with someone should completely replace the need for any paper card."
Ask for Advice, Not Favors
"A good friend of mine recently shared with me his best networking strategy; Ask for advice, not favors. The person you're talking with will enjoy sharing their experience and expertise, and by simply asking the question you're indicating an area that you might like help with. If you make a good impression, if/when they see a natural fit to help you, they will."
Everyone Has Something to Teach
"Networking in the spirit of getting business cards is useless. On the other hand, meeting people with the idea of learning about what they do is always invaluable. I get inspired by the way others have met challenges, and find new ideas for my own business by learning from others about their companies. Ask good questions, listen carefully and be willing to share with the same openness."
Let Your Product Do The Talking
"I'm not alone in hating those people who are desperate to make connections. Instead of being so obvious, focus entirely on creating great products and services, and then people will come to you. Those kinds of connections are priceless; your work has already sold them so you don't have to."
Talk Less to Be Remembered More
"So, you want to become a networking champ -- landing loads of contacts and forging fabulous relationships? Then shut up and listen. People want to be listened to. So ask more questions than you answer. Aim to talk only 30 percent in a given conversation. Be thoughtful, probing, and illuminating in your questions and dialogue. You'll be remembered, trust me."
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a business’s development and growth.