Just as the 'Network Effect' is a phenomenon whereby a product or service gains additional value as more people use it, your 'Networking Effect' can exponentially increase the opportunities that are available to you.
In today’s increasingly intermingled world, connections are the key, whether they are online or offline. As our online connections are increasing, events connecting like-minded professionals in the offline space, such as conclaves, seminars, round tables, and panel discussions, are also growing at a fast clip. Design and call them what you will, but, at the core of it, they aim to connect professionals (or academicians or students) and further an agenda to benefit the community.
So, while you participate with that noble objective in mind, there is no harm in also leveraging these meetups for your own personal gain (even as you do some justice to the hors d‘oeuvres that are hopefully on offer)! For starters (Oh! Why can’t I keep food off my mind?), identify and acknowledge your personal objective from such an event once invited. Do note that your networking can happen in three phases, as outlined below.
Phase 1: Pre-event
Often, as an attendee, you will have visibility of the key speakers attending the event from the promotional communication. Sometimes, especially in the case of a round-table discussion, you may be informed about the identities of the other attendees. Leverage this knowledge and send them a personalized LinkedIn invite to initiate the connection. This way, you will have a reference point when you reach out to them during phase two (i.e. during-event).
[Sneaky Tip: Sometimes, the event organizers send a calendar invite forgetting to BCC the participants. Use this to your advantage by pulling out email addresses of attendees you want to reach out to.]
Phase 2: During-event
This phase requires some deft handling as far as networking goes. There are multiple reasons for the same. For one, the main agenda of the event is the primary focus of the organizers and attendees. Also, you are not the only one hoping to establish a connection with the celebrity keynote speaker. Interestingly, you may be someone who another attendee desperately wants to connect with!
So, navigate this phase carefully. Be cognizant of how the event progresses and look for opportunities, such as coffee breaks, to establish a connection with those you’ve identified. You may meet an old colleague or acquaintance, and the conversation may take you down the memory lane, derailing you from your networking objective. Be vigilant about this too!
Often, you will not be able to reach out to all physically. Therefore during the event, make use of the venue supplied note pads (or your Notes App) to jot down names and designations of those around the table. It helps to search them out on LinkedIn in phase three (i.e. post-event).
[Smart Tip: Use the Bluetooth-enabled ‘Find Nearby’ feature of the LinkedIn app to quickly identify others in close proximity at the event and connect with them. This feature has been explicitly designed for this very purpose. Besides being super quick, it is also eco-friendly—doing away with paper business cards.]
Phase 3: Post-event
Now that the event has concluded, it’s a good opportunity to initiate some connections (if still not done so), and build on the ones already made. Dropping a personalized email or a LinkedIn message works best. A word of caution though: don’t dive straight into ‘selling’ mode for that may tend to put off most recipients. Look at this opportunity as just cementing the connection. There will be more opportunities to pitch for something or make a request, at a later date when you feel you’ve established rapport to be able to do that.
[Killer Tip: In your email/ message, pro-actively share some information with the connection such as a research report that links back to some information/ comment mentioned by him/her. This will be a sure shot way to move one level up in the mind space of the recipient.]
Just as the ‘Network Effect’ is a phenomenon whereby a product or service gains additional value as more people use it, your ‘Networking Effect’ can exponentially increase the opportunities that are available to you. As you do that, however, do keep gender sensitivities in mind, and also the adage that says: “less is more”. Make sure you leverage it consciously, judiciously, and in the right, professional manner.
Keeping the theme in mind, do network with me at LinkedIn (vikas.dua) or drop me an email at [email protected] I would appreciate having your feedback and suggestions!
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