At a recent Female Founders and Funders event, speaker and business coach Malla Haridat explained the importance of analyzing your current network, following up with new contacts, and the power of virtual events.
Developing new relationships is critical to any professional — from startup founders to leaders at large companies. One strategic networking session can grow your business, attract funding opportunities, or lead to game-changing career opportunities.
Still, some people are naturally introverted, and others don’t have much time for networking. Without a solid networking plan, new contacts turn into a pile of business cards collecting dust or LinkedIn connections we never contact.
During a recent Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Female Founders and Funders event held in collaboration with the Gotham Film & Media Institute, business coach Malla Haridat offered advice on how anyone can become a better networker. In fact, she said that approximately 80% of career opportunities stem from networking and offered tactical ways to become a better networker — from strategically planned social media comments to focusing on people already in your network. Here are some key takeaways:
1. Networking is for everyone, even if you’re an introvert
Some people thrive in a room full of strangers. Others find it excruciating. If you’re introverted, try developing relationships with people already in your network. Block off 30 minutes per week to reach out to two to three people per week on LinkedIn. Say hi to previous colleagues. Ask about current projects or book recommendations. Drop a thoughtful comment on their posts. Small efforts can pay big dividends.
“It’s not about going out and meeting 1,000 people, instead, start building deeper, more genuine relationships with the contacts and networks you already have,” said Haridat. “When was the last time you went on LinkedIn and reached out to people you haven’t spoken to in the past six months? Following up is where amazing opportunities come from.”
2. Save time while networking
Time is valuable, and it’s understandable that some people sacrifice networking time in favor of other tasks. But in doing so, they could miss an amazing career opportunity or strategic partnership. Haridat’s advice is simple: if you don’t have much time, be intentional during your next networking event. Rather than making a cheese plate or waiting for a drink, dive right into some conversations and then go home.
“Don’t feel you have to invest five hours at a networking event. Maybe just go to the event, spend 45 minutes or so talking to a few people and leave,” she said.
3. Master the follow up
It may sound remedial, but far too many people simply don’t follow up after a networking event. Even if they connect on LinkedIn or add contacts to digital databases, they don’t actually reach out for a conversation. That’s a mistake. To get genuine conversations started, Haridat suggests asking about passion projects, career advice, or recommendations.
“You’re meeting all these people, building these connections — then what? Do you have conversations with them afterwards? Do you reach out to them? Unless you have a strategy on how to engage, it’s just a business card, not a relationship.”
4. Comment on their profile
If you admire certain influencers, executives, or experts, be sure to comment on their social media posts. A thoughtful comment can get you noticed and spark a true conversation.
“Make sure that on a regular basis, you are showing up so you stay top-of-mind,” said Haridat.
5. Embrace virtual events
Virtual events save time and effort. By adding a well-written one to two sentence elevator pitch in the chat, you will stand out and attract people to you. Start with this easy writing prompt by filling in the blanks: “I help ___ by doing ___.”
“As a mom, I don’t have the bandwidth to attend evening events like I did before,” said Haridat. “Virtual events allow us to meet with everybody in the room vs. in-person events where I might meet two or three amazing people.”
6. Mention wins and results
It’s important to share wins and results early in networking conversations. If you helped clients increase surpass revenue goals — say so. If you work with a Fortune 500 business, say that too. Sharing your wins gets people intrigued to learn more.
“Results are what people want to know,” she said. “As a result of doing what you do, what are the wins you get? What are the stories you can tell? A lot of us talk about what we do but we don’t talk about results. But results are the juicy, exciting parts.”
LIFT Labs hosts various events and conversations that provide an array of viewpoints. Each is intended to create a forum for interested participants to hear perspectives on important topics impacting startup founders worldwide. The views expressed in each program are those of the presenter and not necessarily the views of the Company.