Networking is one of the most effective business strategies. It is a great way of sharing knowledge, ideas and expertise and building your professional profile.

Following these 7 practical tips will help you get your approach to networking off to a great start, or, if you’re an experienced networker, improve your existing skills.

Have a purpose

Think about what you want to achieve from networking. Do you want to develop your career, meet new clients, broaden your horizons, or all of the above? Networking is much more productive and enjoyable when you have a clear goal in mind. Be able to articulate what you are looking for and how others may help you. 

Research

Do some research on the company, industry or career of your contact. Spend more time with fewer people. Impress your targets with your knowledge of who they are and why you are a perfect match.

Provide value to others

Ask people how you can help them and what their goals are. They will quickly respond with a question on how they can help you. Become known as a powerful resource for others. When you are known as a strong resource, people remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, names of other people, etc. This keeps you visible to them.

Ask engaging questions

Ask open-ended questions in networking conversations. This means questions that ask who, what, where, when, and how as opposed to those that can be answered with a simple yes or no. This form of questioning opens up the discussion and shows listeners that you are interested in them. Network via a sincere interest in others rather than promoting just your own personal interest.

Practice with people you know

Start with people you know, then expand to their acquaintances and finally strangers after the process becomes second nature.

It’s always good to practice on your friend before moving on to people they suggest. Using a referral’s name when you contact someone you don’t know can be very helpful in breaking the ice.

Have Fun

Whenever you attend a networking event, above all else, focus on having a good time. People will be attracted to your good attitude. If you’re enjoying yourself, people will enjoy your company. And, even if all fails, at least you can say you had a great time!

Follow-Up

If you’re not following up, you’re not networking! Write personalized follow-up within two days. Your new contacts will also be impressed you took the time to reach out to them so soon after your introduction. If someone says “Sorry, I can not help you this moment,” ask a new question: “Is there a possibility of further contact with you?”.

To succeed at networking events, leave people you meet with a good impression. You want people to feel your positive energy and to see you are willing to help others, as well as have a special area of expertise. This will help ensure the relationship and conversation you have to grow after the networking event.