I AM reading an interesting book by Lida Citroên on creating power through personal branding. I had the privilege of meeting her in Denver, US, a few weeks ago, and I would like to share her personal branding networking tips.
Lida writes that, as you join groups, meet new people and expand your circle, it is very important to understand certain rules of conversation, as well as to identify the ways you can serve your network contacts. Determine things such as their needs, both functional and emotional needs.
Establish what they are looking for and how you are suited to help them. This means finding ways you can make yourself valuable, credible, and resourceful with these contacts. With this information, you are looking for insights that will allow you to build solid, two-way relationships with people whom you have identified as valuable contacts.
As you begin to meet new people, keep these tips in mind:
- Be open to everyone: When you go to a networking event, make it your goal to meet at least three new people. Be open-minded. There may be a person in the room who could provide tremendous decision-making connections for you or become a new information source. You will not know unless you are open to meeting all sorts of people at that event.
- Research people before you meet them: If you know that someone you are hoping to meet will be at a networking event, do some homework in advance. Do a LinkedIn search, Google them to see what comes up. You are looking for opportunity to build rapport, and we build rapport based on common interests.
- Utilise the right icebreakers and conversation starters.
- Respect boundaries: Not everyone wants to have coffee and get to know you, or connect with you online. Not everyone wants to spend time with you at a networking event. Look for clues that perhaps this networking relationship is not working out and move away gracefully.
- Do not share confidential information.
- Do not assume that everyone recognises your value immediately: It is your job to intentionally create as much positive behaviour in the direction of your desired brand as possible.
- Clearly articulate your goals. Make sure people know what you are looking for. If you are looking for a new client, or looking for exposure in a new market, be clear how people can help you.
- Stay top of mind: Meeting people is the first step, but even more important is keeping in touch with them once you have made the connection. Keep that contact going, and not just when you need something. The latter makes people feel used rather than valued.
The most important thing in intentional networking is to set a game plan, a strategy. Do you have a plan? If not start working on it.
Nonto Masuku is a director of an image and reputation management firm.