Here are some time-tested and proven lessons that go a long way to opening the networking flood gates.
- Establish and test the social vibe. You don’t have to be old glee club buddies. But you know when you are getting along with someone or the conversation is coming very easily. This is as important as anything else you can do. The simple truth is that people deal with people they like. Not some earth-shattering business revelation, just reality. To quote A Tribe Called Quest: “If the vibe ain’t right… you’re leavin’!” So true. Many might say this step is not very business-savvy, but I beg to differ.
- Jump right in. People can sense when you are milling about wanting to ask something but you don’t. The vibe then turns very strange and you come off more as an uneasy passer-by. Jump right in or move on. Besides you look creepy just hanging on the fringe of a conversation.
- Offer as much as you take. Many times a benevolent offer of information or services will net you as much, if not more, in return. Pay it forward and give as much as you take. It comes back in spades! Don’t come off too cocky or know-it-all, but if you have something good to offer up, do it! You’ll be a hit. People are more prone to help someone who offered help to them.
- Avoid e-small talk. Avoid the “hey remember me” or “it was really nice to meet you” emails with no real information being passed. After networking or meeting new contacts, not everyone’s memory will be as fresh as yours might be. The contact after the meet-up will need some pertinent information to go along with the re-greet. Don’t let your online communication be faceless. E-mails that are too vague and pose questions that ask for one-word answers rarely open up a dialogue.
- Communicate without always needing something. Remember that kid who always came along with your crew but was always a little short when time to pay up? Uh, yeah… No one likes a mooch. Enough said. It would be nice to check in from time to time and offer at least a quasi sincere communication without needing something.
- Remember, these are relationships. As creatives, we make emotional links and connections. Networking is about establishing connections for future business reasons, be that a need for goods or services of some kind. That’s good, but building trust and some kind of relationship is necessary for trusted and good communication. An established networking partner you trust, and who trusts you, is most likely going to have your interests in mind when something comes up. Again, not a big money business plan thing you hear about, but for creatives this is a huge plus in the networking and communication department.
What about you? Any tips to pass along for 2011?
BTW: Steve Gordon, Jr. will be speaking at CFC 2011 on what it’s like to be a “24/7 creative.” Sign up for the newsletter here to make sure you get all the news first.