5 Tips for Better Networking

by Ron Vitale

I attended Social Media Marketing World this week and learned some great tips on how to network better, engage readers and achieve success in your career. If I could sum up all that I've learned into one nice tidbit, I'd say that how the world sees you is critical to your achieving your goals. Often we tend to look into ourselves and focus on that, projecting out our hopes and dreams.

But here are five great tips on how to look outside ourselves and to network better:

1. Ask people: How Can I Help You?

Try to figure out how best to help people. Larry Benet is a master at networking. When networking with people, instead of focusing on what they can do for you, ask them how you can help them. Listen. Truly listen to what people share with you and if you can't help them today, you never know when they might be able to help you in the future. By focusing on listening and being receptive, you'll make a bigger impact on that person and set a strong foundation to your relationship.

2. Relationships are Key.

When networking, be sure to show people how you can be valuable to them. Give to people, share with people and build up your connection currency. Often people go up to people they don't know and drop a huge ask on them: Can you review my book? Can you help me get published? Instead, share an article with fellow writers, put one writer in touch with a cover artist that they were looking for and look for opportunities to help connect and help people. Sounds simple, and it is, but in the long run it'll make a difference because you will have earned people's trust and they'll want to help you in return.

3. Know the Right Questions to Ask

If you only have a few seconds with someone, focus on an emotional connection with someone. Larry Benet gave some great tips and had the entire session stand up and practice. Have these simple questions in your back pocket to help you in networking. All you have to do is to ask these questions, listen and then return in kind:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of?
  • What is at the top of your bucket list?

These questions are easy to remember and a great way to break the ice with someone you haven't met before. Find any commonality between you and the other person and listen, truly listen, to her answers.

4. Follow Up Afterward

Once you've made a connection with someone, reach out to her and send her a note or a tweet to stay in touch. This is a great opportunity to share an article and to show that you were listening during your time together. What's important here is that you focus on remembering what you learned from that person and reach back out to help them. That's critical because networking isn't simply about clicking a "follow" button or adding someone to your LinkedIn account, but to make a real difference in that person's life by remembering their answer to the question: How can I help you? 

5. Tie It All Together

Larry Benet gave some great examples in his talk. He mentioned that he had been involved in the taping of "We Are the World 2" and later had an opportunity to meet President Clinton. When he did so, he asked the former president if he would like to play saxophone on the recording and in mere seconds he had received President Clinton's personal contact information. He was able to leverage the networking experience he had in being involved with the taping of the song with a few seconds he had with President Clinton.

Now our daily networking might never have us in such circles of power, but we could have daily opportunities to help people in ways we might not have thought of and that's a key point. Networking isn't about collecting people's business cards, but in getting to know people, listening and trying to help them. In return, you'll be able to share your story and what you needing help with and be helped in the future.

Networking can be intimidating for those introverted like myself, but practice, practice and more practice will make you better at it. And fear not: With today's social media platforms, it's even easier than ever to help people. Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn are fantastic tools to allow us to not only network but really help people. So gives these few tips a try and you'll see how easy it is to really make a difference and bring true value to people.