Networking. It’s a term that has multiple meanings and applications. It has deep roots in Sociology, which can basically be defined as “the study of human social behavior.”
Networking’s roots in sociology help explain the emergence of the term “Social Media,” which refers to the process of connecting and engaging with one another online.
Networking is an essential part of success in business, and the concept was studied by American psychologist Stanley Milgram in the 1960s. His belief was that individuals are much more closely connected than one might think, and was able to support that theory in a project that became known as the “Six Degrees of Separation,” referencing the fact that no two people are more than six “people” connections from one another.
Milgram’s Six Degrees of Separation theory (which was also explored in Duncan Watts’ excellent book “Six Degrees“) helps explain the explosive growth of LinkedIn: today, LinkedIn supports more than 161 million professional users and reports revenues approaching $200-million. As a professional community, there is possibly no more influential network than LinkedIn.
Whether connecting online or in person, knowing how to build your network is important.
While online networking is extremely popular (and relatively easy), face-to-face still remains one of the most powerful ways to network. Whether it’s at a trade show, industry convention, or seminar, knowing how to make new connections is important.
With that in mind, here are six tips from freelance writer and editor Matt Viliano on how to meet people and build your network:
1. Have an Agenda – Decide what you want out of the event
2. Fly Solo – When you are on your own you are forced to talk to people
3. Work the Room – Spend 5 to 7 minutes with each person
4. Take Notes – Write on the back of a business card you receive (extra tip: don’t forget your own business cards)
5. Watch Your Drink – You can loosen up a bit, but limit yourself to 1 drink
6. Follow Up – Even with the hosts (you could be invited back for another event!)
Connecting on a professional level means you need to also present — and reinforce — a professional image. One way to do this is via a virtual phone number. A virtual phone number allows you to stay connected with your business no matter where you are and to maintain much better time management via the extra mobility offered by a virtual phone number. Callers to your business line (such as an eVoice toll-free number) can be set to ring your cell phone, home phone, home office phone, etc in sequence, or all at once. This means you’ll never miss a call.
Plus, your calls will be answered and routed professionally, just like with larger companies who use sophisticated installed PBX systems.
So, whether it’s online (via a social network), in person (at a trade show), or via phone (a virtual phone number), remember this: Networking is the key to success in business.