Networking can be a significant challenge, even for the most social among us. For many others, going into a room of strangers in search of valuable business relationships is a stressful chore at best. Here, Adam Ferrari, CEO and founder of Ferrari Energy, discusses methods for reducing networking anxiety and maximizing everyday networking opportunities.
- Research and Prepare for Events
Some work in advance of almost any networking event will help you maximize the time investment you are making to participate. You will also find that some planning will significantly reduce the stress involved in attending. Start with studying the host and sponsors of the event. Learn something about the key hosts and anticipate the conversation you might have with any of them in limited time to make an impression. When you know the background of the hosts of your event and their general expectations, you will have some automatic foundation for questions or discussion when the opportunity arises. When possible, also look at a guest list to identify a small list of people who would be of particular interest to you.
- Make Every Business Card Exchange a Meaningful Event
People often leave networking events with a pocketful of business cards that do not carry any individual significance. When you fall into the habit of merely handing out cards, you are adding to someone else’s pocketful of meaningless cards. Make every card or promotional material exchange part of an actual and genuine connection with a person. Actively listen to someone you meet for the first time and use your business card as a link to practical follow-up in the future. If you pick up on an individualized point of interest, make a note on the back of your card to key the other person into a good reason to talk with you again in the future.
- Make Conversations Meaningful and About Your Career Instead of Your Job
This is where simple and basic communication skills are important to remember. Eye contact and a reasonable and engaging handshake are always the beginning points of a positive conversation. Engage the people you meet and encourage them to talk about themselves and their careers. Likewise, you should use your side of the conversation to explore your shared career interests rather than your personal job situation and experience. Active listening will help you develop engaging follow up questions that encourage others to get more deeply involved in your conversation.
- Always Follow Up Immediately with Meaningful Contacts
To make the most of networking events, make detailed notes as soon as possible about conversations you have with people who are most likely to become essential contacts. Jot down the topics and any interesting questions you discussed. When you are back at your desk, start right away on writing and sending an email that recaps and continues strong discussions. If you have relevant information, attaching a case study, white paper, or article adds immediate value to your new relationship. It greatly increases the likelihood that your new contact will want to talk further about business opportunities.
About Adam Ferrari
Adam Ferrari is the founder of the Denver-based mineral acquisitions company Ferrari Energy. He is a chemical engineer by degree and is an accomplished petroleum engineer by profession. He also has experience in the financial sector through his work at an investment banking firm. Under his leadership, his company has supported numerous charitable organizations including St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Freedom Service Dogs, Denver Rescue Mission, Coats for Colorado, and Next Steps of Chicago.