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How to take advantage of the shifting trends in networking

Networking online and offline has changed in recent years – do you know how to take advantage of this shift?

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Networking has evolved over the years

There are many aspects of networking that have evolved over the years. Technology has certainly changed the way we interact and keep in touch.

Some parts of human to human interactions remain the same, but in my experience, as new apps and software push many of us to connect on their platforms and tools, over time, the personal touch can be lost and majorly bad habits can form at an accelerated rate.

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Here are a few rules that still hold true today you should keep in mind when networking that work without any technology or fancy gadgets.

1. Get curious to get past the first layer

You won’t find much networking if you’re out and about and not talking to anyone, or if you’re in a corner of the room holding your drink and staring at a house plant. You will find that people are warm and inviting if you approach them and attempt to find commonalities in conversation as quickly as possible.

Many people have the same feelings and reservations about connecting with others as you might, so be the first one and reach out. If you must use a gadget as your only way to network, remember that when you’re online, reach out to people and find out who they are.

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Online or in person, really get curious about people and find out what’s important to them. Just listening to what really matter to them goes a long way towards really connecting past that first layer with people.

2. How to break into a circle of people chatting

Have you ever been chatting with a bunch of friends and a stranger breaks into your circle and attempts to sell you a product or service right off the bat? Remember how awkward that feels? Well that’s because there’s a social subtlety at work here.

You have to deposit into someone’s emotional piggy bank before you withdraw from it.

Someone that you just met makes a request for you to take out your wallet is of course going to feel off-putting. But if a friend you’ve known for a month or two asks you the same question, you might be open to having a deeper conversation about the topic.

Remember, when you break into a circle, attempt to find out who each of the people are in the group, how they know each other, and explore what you can do to help them achieve their goals. If you do this first, they will feel indebted to help you achieve yours.

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3. Follow up and take people to lunches

There is a saying is there’s no such thing as a free lunch. You may have heard this, and it may be true, but this saying works differently in application from city to city.

In Austin, lunches are much more about connection. People in Austin have a little bit more time on their hands when compared to larger cities, so asking and taking people to lunch is still possible in this day and age.

After you meet someone, it’s important that you follow up so that they can remember you. After all, if you meet someone at a networking event, and you feel that you could both benefit from each other’s company on a mutually beneficial business level, take them to lunch. Treat them, in fact. You will be surprised how much you will receive back. It will be more than your $30 most of the time.

4. Use technology to supplement offline networking efforts

Here’s the right way to network using online technology to supplement your in person efforts:

  • Research – Before attending an event, research who will be there and what kind of venue it is. Make a plan for how attending the event will help you obtain your personal business goals. Make sure your networking activities align with those goals. Outside of your general networking event when meeting up with people for lunch, research who they are and what they do online before meeting offline. You will be able to find commonalities with those who you’re meeting with faster. Your meeting will be much more productive if you can focus the conversation.
  • Automation with a Personal Touch – Once you come from a big networking event, what do you have? A big stack of business cards you have to process. There are apps out there that scan business cards and even auto generate emails for you. If you don’t have a company that can afford a secretary to handle activities like this, get the app to do this work for you. It’s very important that after your attend a networking event, you follow up in a personal way with each of those people that gave you a business card. Adding a personal touch can be something as simple as mentioning a funny joke you shared with the person during your conversation or re-stating any topic you two chatted about. One relevant statement in your email to a person you just met makes it look like you took the time to make an effort to communicate in a non template-y sort of way. Your connections will respond better to your personal touch.
  • Re-engagement – Not everyone is able to buy what you’re selling right off the bat. Let’s say you’re selling bicycles, and your average person only buys a new bicycle every two years. That means if you meet them the same month they just happened to be in the market for a bike you have a sale, otherwise you may have to maintain a relationship for a long time before your connection turns into a sale. The goal here is to keep in touch here and there until they are ready to buy. There is an app I use by LinkedIn called ‘Connected,’ it semi-automates the re-connect and staying in touch process. You push a button and it sends emails out to select contacts and even delivers somewhat personalized emails to them. Without the app I may spend hours keeping in touch with 20 people in my network. With the app, I can keep in touch with hundreds of people in my network and maintain a personal connection with them. Then one of those hundreds of people remembers me usually when they need 3D Animation that I sell at Austin Visuals 3D Animation Studio or sometimes because I’ve kept in touch, warm connections will be reminded to refer me leads when someone in their network is looking.

The takeaway

There are many wrong ways to network, but in short, here are some final tips for how to do it correctly: be giving and share your resources with others to help them with their goals, be curious about others, listen well to their challenges, keep in touch, and keep it personal.

People love relationships, and we are social creatures. Strong relationships trump most kinds of technology innovations so keep this in mind.

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Written By

Matthew Winters is the owner of Austin Visuals 3D Animation Studio , a Full-Service 2D & 3D animation studio, advertising agency, and video production studio. As one of Austin's movers and shakers, he also founded Speed Friending Events which produces networking mixers and social events in over 14 cities nationally. Matthew is dedicated to providing solutions to social and technology related issues in the industry.

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