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Connecting the dots: It's a lot like networking

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Barbara Kauffman, board appointments committee chair, EWNJ, speaks during Executive Women of New Jersey's event
Barbara Kauffman, board appointments committee chair, EWNJ, speaks during Executive Women of New Jersey's event

At Newark Regional Business Partnership, networking is central to our efforts to return value on investment to our members.

Do you remember the puzzles with numbered dots? The objective was to draw lines between the dots, starting out at No. 1. At first, you could not tell what the picture would be. You had to stay with it to see its true meaning.

That is a lot like networking. You walk into the room, perhaps knowing few if any of the other attendees. Your conversation may seem to be going nowhere, or not in a direction that you deem helpful. You might start to glance around the room for someone else to talk to, or suddenly have a great desire for another cup of coffee. 

This is where a deeper understanding of how networking works can turn potentially negative experiences into positive ones. Like the puzzle where the steady process of drawing lines between the dots leads to a clearer picture, persisting in conversations can often lead to outcomes beyond what you might imagine.   

Instead of focusing on your own needs, think about how you can help the person with whom you are conversing. Who else in the room do you know that can be helpful? Is there a connection you can make for them? 

There are ways to be strategic and make the most of any event you attend. Here are some tips and tricks to making the most of your next networking experience.

  1. Be the first in the room and get comfortable. Find the facilities you need and plan where you will sit. 
  2. Sit with people you don’t know or don’t know well. Try not to sit with your colleagues, who you see at the office.
  3. Put the smartphone on silent and ignore it.  Staring at your phone for the duration, or in moments of awkwardness, will not help you become a power networker. The exception is for sharing the event on social media while remarks are underway. Photos add a lot, and notable quotes are helpful to generate attention and gratitude.
  4. Greet the other first arrivals and use this quieter time, before the room begins to fill, to engage in longer conversations; these will be more difficult to have once there are interruptions and it is harder to hear. If you cannot make it to the start of the meeting, plan to stay at the end. This does not always work as well, because the people you hope to see may leave before the conclusion.
  5. If there is a presentation, ask a question and introduce yourself and your organization before you ask.  Everyone in the audience will hear your name and organization, which helps with name recognition and often leads to someone starting a conversation with you later on.
  6. Make a list of follow up actions and after the meeting, follow up right away.  Two or three days later the person may not remember the conversation, or you may not remember the critical aspect of what you hoped to achieve through the connection.
  7. Be strategic in selecting the events you attend.   At the Newark Regional Business Partnership, we advise members who call in advance so they know whether attendance at a particular event is likely to meet their needs.  Our advice often includes information about other groups’ activities. For example, Executive Women of New Jersey and Lead New Jersey serve different interests, as do venerated resources such as NJPAC and The Newark Museum.  NRBP also has a group of people called Ambassadors, members who volunteer to help people feel comfortable and get the most from any event.  These people, and the NRBP staff, work hard to help all of our members and event attendees connect the dots and make their networking picture crystal clear. 

To learn more about the benefits of the Newark Regional Business Partnership and to see NRBP’s schedule of events with networking opportunities, go to www.newarkrbp.org.  Join us on social media: @NewarkRBP on Twitter and Newark Regional Business Partnership for Facebook, LinkedIn (group and company page), and Google+ . For this and other stories, go to Tumblr.

Newark Regional Business Partnership, a broad-based business organization representing 450 members with more than 140,000 employees in New Jersey, is committed to the revitalization of Newark and to providing its members with the connections, information and advocacy they need to be successful. 

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