Do’s and Don’ts of Professional Networking

Professional networking can be intimidating but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few talking points and resources from my presentation to the University of Central Florida Chapter of the American Marketing Association. Joined by Ken DeGilio, fellow Course Director and Brand Coach and hosted by Ken Cossin, President of the Orlando AMA.

Ice Breaker ExerciseNetworking Bingo!

Event Topics:

  • Introduction/Elevator Pitch (Ryan)
  • Building Rapport (Ryan)
  • Exchanging Contact Information (Ryan)
  • Where to Go for Networking Events (Ken)
  • Maintaining Your Network (Ken)
  • Social Media Networking (Ken)

Topic: The Elevator Pitch

Key Point: The purpose of the elevator pitch is to plant a seed not sign a deed. Provides more information than your business card and far less information than your resumé. When executed correctly, the elevator pitch will act as a catalyst inspiring the other person to want to learn more about you.

Do’s

  • Keep it bold, brief, and branded. (Why Buy ROI: “So what? Make me care. Do it fast!” Credit: Ditch. Dare. Do!)
    • Structure: Strategic Label > Professional Experience > Current Position/Situation > Vision
  • Play ping pong NOT beer pong.
    • Make it conversational; ask open-ended questions that require more than a “yes or no” answer.
    • Pass the conversation back and forth eventually setting the person up to receive your best shot.
  • Know your audience.
    • Be prepared with psychographic information (Interests, Activities, Opinions – IAO variables)
  • Practice, practice, practice, and then practice some more. (There’s no such thing as the perfect pitch – just the right pitch.)

Dont’s

  • Mumble and/or use slang or abbreviations.
  • Dominate the conversation.
  • Speak too fast or sound rehearsed.

Topic: Building Rapport

Key Point: Sacrifice your ego. It’s not about you. It’s about them!

Do’s

  • Smile! 😀 Make them feel welcomed and important. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  • Mirror the behaviors of others. Principle of Liking (Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini)
    • PsychologyToday.com: 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken.
    • Body postures and gestures
    • Rhythm of breathing
    • Energy level
    • Tone of voice
  • Find commonalities to ensure a casual, comfortable, non-intimating conversation that ensures longevity.
  • Speak their language; what is important to them?
    • Try brand comparison statements (EX. More like ____ than ____. More like Apple than IBM.)
    • Develop conversational currency (Hootsuite, Google Alerts, Feedly)
    • Validate them. Begin with praise and honest appreciation. Abraham Lincoln to Major General Joseph Hooker after losing nearly every battle for the Union:
      • “I believe you to be a brave and a skillful soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm.”
      • Major Gen Hooker response to a reporter: “That is just such a letter as a father might write to his son. It is a beautiful letter, and, although I think he was harder on me than I deserved, I will say that I love the man who wrote it.
      • List of admirable qualities to reference in communication with others.

Don’ts

  • Ask for anything during the initial interaction. Give more than you receive. (Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook)
  • Forget their name. A person’s name is the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  • Check your phone, watch, or look around the room.
  • Be afraid to ask questions. Most people enjoy showcasing their knowledge and expertise when given the chance.

Topic: Exchanging Information

Key Point: Don’t show up empty-handed. When you give a person something tangible, they have to put it somewhere. When you give a person something useful, they will use it.

Do’s

  • Be ready to provide your contact information in a variety ways (yes, especially the old-fashioned business card.)
  • Offer your card or contact information first. Then wait for them to reciprocate.
    • Principle of Reciprocity (Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini)
      • Offer something first – allow them to feel indebted to you
      • Offer something exclusive – allow them to feel special
      • Personalize the offer – make sure they know it’s from you
  • Follow-up. Set aside time after the event or occasion to reach out to your new contact.
    • Recap what you enjoyed about the conversation (a gentle reminder of who you are).
    • Provide a resource that could help them in some way or connect them with someone else.
    • Conclude with your unique promise of value and manage expectations moving forward (when/how will they hear from you again).

Don’ts

  • Provide contact information that is unprofessional.
    • Email Address: NOT jdawg420@gmail.com NOT johndoe@hotmail.com NOT jdoe1990@gmail.com (ideally, john@johndoe.com)
    • Phone Message: default automated message; “You have reached 555-555-5555.” (customize your voicemail so it exudes your personal brand)
    • LinkedIn: default URL (secure your vanity URL; same for all major social networking sites)
  • Be pushy or overzealous. Remember, you are there to provide value to them. You’ll need to make deposits before withdrawing.
    • When following up, don’t ask for anything. Just concentrate on giving using the concepts explored when discussing rapport building.