How to Network

Three experts offer advice on how to become a master networker.

How to Network | BCBusiness

Three experts offer advice on how to become a master networker.

Whether you run a small home business or are a top executive in a large firm, networking is essential for staying in touch with current clients and attracting new ones, and for staying updated and relevant in your market. Everyone knows the routine of swapping business cards, going out for dinners and drinks, trolling LinkedIn and tweeting, but these are the bare bones of networking. For how to do it with panache, we asked three experts: Felicia Lee, founder and principal of Candeo Business Coaching; Sarah Morton, founder and CEO of Backbone Systems and Networks Corp.; and Dennis Pang, founder of Popcorn Canadian Enterprises Ltd.

Start Dating

People often go into networking events with high expectations of sourcing immediate connections. Stop treating networking like hunting prey, and view it more like dating. “You don’t want to ask them to marry you on the first date,” Lee says, jokingly. “You don’t have to have a three-hour conversation. You just want to find out enough to know if you want to go out again.” Morton agrees, adding that, as in dating, establishing the right contacts takes patience and persistence. “Don’t assume you should make a great connection every time you go out. You have to kiss a lot of frogs to meet a prince,” she says. The best approach is to be open and curious.

Connect on Casual Grounds

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I often see the same people at the events in my industry, so it’s rare I’m making new connections there,” says Morton. Therefore, rather than limit your focus to industry-specific events, she recommends attending social gatherings that you find interesting on a personal level. “It’s a more relaxed environment and there’s less pressure to be ‘networking.’” The best connections are often made when people are truly being themselves, she explains.

Build Relationships

If you’re scanning the room and looking for someone important to chat up, people see right through you. “Relationships are built when people are able to connect with one another. Be genuinely interested in people’s lives,” says Pang. And remember that “when you shake hands with somebody, you’re not just shaking hands with them; you’re shaking hands with their network,” adds Lee.

Mix Technology and Face Time

If you haven’t embraced social networking, it’s time. “I don’t collect business cards,” says Pang. “If I meet someone, I’ll add them to LinkedIn or connect on Twitter. If they aren’t active on those networks, there’s a good chance we’ll never connect again.” He adds that profile images on social networks are a great help: “I never forget a face that I’ve met.” Lee relies less on e-networks: “Even as a tech-savvy person, there’s nothing that beats meeting someone face-to-face,” she says.