We all understand that technology has revolutionized the way we communicate and connect with others, which can make networking easier and more efficient than ever before.
While this sounds like good news — and it is — often, the added ease and convenience afforded by technology comes with increased demands and expectations to do more.
Meeting these demands and exceeding expectations might sound overwhelming but we will show you that, with the right technology, it’s actually pretty simple.
The trick is knowing what to do and how to do it.
While we argue that it’s easy to improve networking with technology, it does help to have some proven strategies and suggestions to improve networking with technology
In this piece, we’ll review the importance of networking with respect to your professional trajectory, offer advice for how to hone your networking skills, present a few networking no-nos and, finally, wrap up with ways to integrate event technology into your networking efforts.
Easy ways to leverage technology for better networking
Even for those who profess to be non-tech savvy, leveraging technology for better networking is actually quite simple. In fact, it’s likely that you’re already doing a few of the following top suggestions:
Use social media
Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook can be great tools for building and maintaining professional relationships. Use these platforms to connect with people in your industry, share your expertise, and engage in conversations with others.
Attend virtual events
With the rise of virtual events and webinars, it’s easier than ever to connect with people from around the world. Attend virtual conferences, workshops, and networking events to meet new people and expand your network.
Join online communities
There are many online communities and forums dedicated to specific industries or topics. Join these groups to connect with like-minded individuals, share your expertise, and learn from others.
Use networking apps
There are several networking apps that can help you find and connect with people in your industry. These apps allow you to filter your search based on your interests and goals, making it easier to find the right people to connect with.
Use video conferencing tools
Video conferencing tools like Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet can be great for virtual networking meetings or job interviews. Use these tools to connect with people face-to-face, even if you can’t meet in person. After the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re all pretty proficient when it comes to using these tools, so you should feel comfortable using this familiar territory to expand your network.
Leverage social media, attend virtual events, join online communities, use networking apps, and rely on video conferencing tools to expand your network and nurture meaningful relationships with people in your industry.
What’s the benefit or value of networking when it comes to your professional goals?
The Importance of Networking
Networking is an essential component of personal and professional development. It involves building relationships and connections with people who share similar interests, goals, or expertise.
Simply put, networking matters — even if you’re not entirely sure of your professional path — because it affords you the education and connection that allows you to:
Networking is an excellent way to build meaningful relationships with people who share your interests or goals. It provides an opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals and establish a rapport that can be beneficial in both personal and professional settings.
EXPAND your knowledge
Networking can expose you to new ideas, perspectives, and information that you might not have otherwise encountered. By connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and industries, you can learn from their experiences and broaden your knowledge base.
Networking can be a valuable tool for discovering new job opportunities, partnerships, or collaborations. It can help you identify potential clients, investors, or mentors who can support your career or business goals.
ENHANCE your reputation
Networking can help you establish yourself as an expert or thought leader in your field. By sharing your knowledge and insights with others, you can build a positive reputation and gain credibility in your industry.
Networking is an essential skill for personal and professional growth. It allows you to build relationships, expand your knowledge, find opportunities, and enhance your reputation.
When you consider all that you stand to gain from improving your networking skills, it should come as a relief to know that technology’s role is increasing, thereby facilitating and streamlining your networking efforts.
Speaking of your efforts…
How do I become better at networking?
Becoming better at networking takes time, effort, and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone. While there is no real shortcut that will transform you into a networking superstar overnight, there are actionable steps you can start to take today, such as:
Before attending a networking event, set specific goals for what you want to achieve. This can include meeting a certain number of people, making a specific connection, or learning something new. We always recommend setting small, reasonable goals for each event, as well as one stretch goal. That way, you set yourself up for success and a challenge, both of which should motivate you and return some real results.
Listen more than you talk
When meeting new people, focus on listening more than you talk. This can help you learn about their interests, needs, and goals, and show that you value their input.
Be yourself and avoid trying to impress others with false information or exaggerated claims. Authenticity can help build trust and establish meaningful connections. In other words, make every effort to show up as the best version of yourself — the one that you’re proud of and most comfortable with.
After meeting someone, follow up with them to reinforce the connection. Send a personalized email or message thanking them for the conversation and expressing your interest in staying in touch. Remember, you’ve been networking alongside people who are doing the same thing as you — meeting lots of new people and trying to assign every new introduction into a meaningful interaction. Don’t get lost in the din. Reconnect with those people whose mission, goals, or personalities you aligned with ASAP.
Consider how you can offer value to the people you meet. This can include sharing your expertise, offering to make introductions, or providing helpful resources. Once again, this involves thoughtful listening skills. If you don’t know what your peers are looking for, you won’t be able to offer meaningful solutions or referrals.
Attend networking events, conferences, and other industry gatherings to meet new people and expand your network. Be open to new experiences and opportunities.
Like any skill, networking takes practice. Look for opportunities to practice your networking skills in both professional and social settings. Rather like interviewing for jobs, the more you network, the more comfortable you will feel presenting yourself and what you have to offer to other professionals you’ve only just met.
There is no shortcut to excellence in networking. Becoming better at networking requires a combination of preparation, active listening, authenticity, follow-up, value offering, attendance to networking events, and practice. By consistently putting these tips into action, you can improve your networking skills and build meaningful connections with others in your industry.
Of course, knowing what not to do when it comes to networking can be just as valuable as practicing the strategies outlined above.
What are the don’ts of networking?
The other side of the networking coin reflects what you should avoid when it comes to nurturing your professional network. For instance:
Don’t be pushy
Remember, no one likes the used car salesman approach to business. Avoid being pushy or aggressive when approaching people at networking events. Instead, be respectful of their time and interests.
Don’t be a wallflower
While it’s important to be respectful, it’s also important to be proactive in networking. Don’t be afraid to approach people and start a conversation. It’s not fair to assume others will approach you and introduce themselves. Make an effort, extend your hand and share who you are, what you do and what brings you to the event.
Don’t be self-centered
Networking is about building relationships, not just promoting yourself or your business. Focus on building a connection with the person you’re talking to rather than just promoting your own agenda. Ideally, you want to make yourself memorable to others by offering the right referral or solution and you cannot do that if you’re focused exclusively on your own agenda.
Don’t forget to follow up
After meeting someone, it’s important to follow up with them to reinforce the connection. Failing to follow up can make the interaction feel meaningless and forgettable. Keep in mind that following up doesn’t have to be formal. You can start with mentioning something you had in common, whether a connection, hobby or the last place you vacationed. Reconnect and get the ball rolling.
Don’t be unprofessional
Remember that networking events are still professional settings, and you should behave accordingly. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, dressing inappropriately, or engaging in unprofessional behavior. Commit to the idea that no matter what your professional title is today, you are your own brand — always, and as such you want to represent yourself in the best light possible.
Interrupting someone when they’re speaking can be seen as rude and disrespectful. Instead, wait for your turn to speak and show that you value their input. If you do interrupt someone, simply apologize and chalk it up to your enthusiasm about the topic being discussed.
Don’t forget to listen:
This point cannot be overstated. Listening is an important part of networking. Avoid talking too much about yourself and focus on listening to what the other person has to say. More than expressing your own ideas, needs, and interests, listening to others is really where you’ll find the opportunity to make a meaningful connection that you can build on long after the event has ended.
Avoiding these common networking “don’ts” can help you build meaningful connections with others and stop you from making common mistakes that can damage your reputation or hinder your networking efforts. Of course, making mistakes is integral to learning so, if you do suffer a slip just note the lesson in it and move on.
With any luck, leveraging technology for networking will help you smooth out any rough edges in your efforts and help you sidestep the potential pitfalls we’ve outlined above.
Benefits of Using Technology for Networking
We’re using technology for everything these days, so why not networking?
Since we opened this piece by presenting some easy ways to incorporate technology into your networking strategy, let’s take a closer look at the actual benefits of doing so.
Taking the time to implement technology, particularly a service or custom mobile app, not only enhances networking on the ground at events, but also provides seamless follow up, along with the opportunity to engage with contacts in real-time.
In addition, technology enhances event networking with benefits like:
With the use of social media, online communities, and networking apps, you can connect with people from around the world regardless of your location.
Access email, messaging, or video conferencing tools to communicate with multiple people at once, saving you time and effort.
Thanks to the proliferation of online platforms, you can connect with a larger audience and reach people outside of your immediate circle, thereby expanding your network like never before.
Trust tools like customer relationship management (CRM) software to keep track of your contacts, follow-ups, and networking events.
Circling back to social media, there are countless online platforms to share your expertise, and upon which you can build your personal brand and attract more opportunities.
Participate in virtual events, connect with people on the go, or communicate with others outside of traditional business hours.
The takeaway: The benefits of using technology for networking are numerous and can help you expand your reach, increase your efficiency, and build meaningful relationships with others in your industry.
Networking Tips for Events
Attending networking events can be a great way to meet new people and build relationships in your industry. Here are some networking tips specifically for events:
- Research beforehand: Do your research and find out who will be attending the event. This can help you prepare for conversations and make meaningful connections with people who share similar interests.
- Set goals: Set specific goals for what you want to achieve at the event. This can include meeting a certain number of people, making a specific connection, or learning something new.
- Dress appropriately: Dress appropriately for the event and make sure to follow the dress code. This can help you make a good first impression and feel more confident.
- Approach people: Don’t be afraid to approach people and start a conversation. Introduce yourself, ask about their interests, and look for common ground.
- Listen actively: Listen actively to what the other person is saying and show that you value their input. This can help build trust and establish a meaningful connection.
- Be prepared to talk about yourself: Be prepared to talk about yourself and your interests, but avoid being too self-centered. Focus on building a connection with the person you’re talking to.
- Exchange contact information: Exchange contact information with people you meet and follow up with them after the event. Send a personalized email or message thanking them for the conversation and expressing your interest in staying in touch.
- Follow up: After the event, follow up with people you met to reinforce the connection. This can help you build a meaningful relationship and stay top of mind.
Overall, networking events can be a great way to meet new people and build relationships in your industry. By following these tips, you can make the most of your networking efforts and establish meaningful connections with others in your field.
For event planners, the question and challenge becomes how to incorporate technology into a robust events strategy?
Incorporating Technology into Your Events Strategy
As an event manager, if you’re not already incorporating technology into your events strategy, you really should be in order to enhance the attendee experience, streamline your efforts, and improve engagement.
What are some telltale signs of technology at work in successful event strategies?
Event registration and ticketing
An online platform for event registration and ticketing makes it easier for attendees to register and purchase tickets, and for you to manage attendance and track event metrics. Everyone wins.
Mobile event apps
A mobile event app that attendees can use to access event information, schedule, maps, and speaker bios will improve attendee engagement and help attendees stay organized.
Live streaming and virtual attendance
Don’t skip a live streaming option for attendees who are unable to attend in person. Integrating this feature can expand the reach of your event and make it more accessible to a wider audience.
From start to finish, use social media to promote your event, create buzz, and engage with attendees before, during, and after the event. Use hashtags as part of your event promotion and encourage attendees to share their experience on social media.
Who doesn’t like a friendly game? Gamification can increase attendee engagement and encourage interaction, so find space to include interactive quizzes, contests, or scavenger hunts to make your next event more fun and engaging.
Track attendance, engagement, and other metrics in order to accurately evaluate the success of your event and make data-driven decisions for future events.