If you’re like most people, you probably think networking is an obnoxious chore. Indeed, most networking events are awkward ordeals where a bunch of strangers try to act professional in the same room, while they would rather be doing literally anything else. However, networking doesn’t have to be the professional equivalent of torture. Essentially, the purpose of networking is to connect with people, which is one of the most basic of all human needs. If you try to think of networking like any other form of human connection, you begin to see how you can rise above the shortfalls that usually are assorted with this business activity. Here are some creative ways you can improve your own networking…
Add an interesting activity to meet-and-greets
The most basic form of modern networking is the business meet-and-greet, an event where people get dressed in business to business-casual attire and try to mingle in a large conference area. These events tend to be dreaded, by many professionals. However, a meet-and-greet has the potential to actually be a terrific networking event. Instead of just putting people in the same room and awkwardly hoping that they talk to each other, try to attach an activity that people will enjoy doing with your activity. One common form of this is a golf tournament, but you can literally do it with any activity that people love doing! Try to pick an activity where people have to work together and interact with each other, in order to generate natural icebreakers that bring people together.
Brand things that make people happy
To network efficiently, you need to have a topic that breaks the ice for people, while also making sure that you and your business are going to be a major subject of conversation. This is where branded merchandise comes into play for many companies. However, simply slapping your logo on something doesn’t make it interesting. You need to make creative choices about what to brand, so that you get the little spark that you need to get conversation flowing. Although they are less permanent, doing this with food items can be a great way to do this. One popular way, lately, is to brand beverages at events where people are going to get thirsty (here’s an article about a fun way to do this, if you’re interested).
Be in the right crowd
In every geographic market and industry, there is a unique “it crowd” of people. This is the social circle where business magic happens, and where investments and entrepreneurial deals are struck. Whatever your industry, find the right crowds to try to break into. If you are in a stagnant networking circle, then most of the networking that you do will be pointless, as the contacts you are making aren’t fulfilling or inspiring you to go further.
Do charitable actions
One of the best ways to network is to rally people around something; a cause or mission that people will care about. When doing networking events, try to build them around a charitable cause that can bring people together. Even just going to charity drives and fundraisers will put you in touch with like minded people who are great to network with. This also can make you more passionate about the ways that you network, which will always be a great benefit.
Banter on social media
Today, the greatest tool that is exists for professionals to network is the world wide web. The internet has opened up the possibilities for the ways that we interact with each other. This is especially true of social media. If you aren’t using social media as a major networking tool, then you are missing a major opportunity, essentially. However, when networking and meeting people on social media, don’t be the snoozefest in the room. People like to network and work with people who they find interesting. Because of this, although you still want to remain professional, let your personality shine through all of your social media interactions. Be playful, succinct, and memorable with your social media banter, and you will find that your online networking goes alot farther.