12 Tips to Improve Your Networking Skills

business-networkingIn his book, "Business Brilliant," Lewis Schiff, executive director of the Inc. Business Owners Council (and 2014 PR News Measurement Conference keynote speaker), shares his research into the common traits of "self-made business icons." One of his key findings is that these exemplars of business success have little use for so-called rugged American individualism. They have succeeded, first, by figuring out what they do better than everyone else and earning money by doing that and, second, by finding assistance with everything else. These self-made icons, to a person, needed a network of people to succeed.

As Schiff might say, "It's not what you know, it's who you know" is a half-truth. It's what you know and who you know. If it's success you're after, then you need both.

"Finding assistance with everything else" is just a five-word phrase for networking. And since PR professionals are—or should be—networking masters, we asked them on Twitter to share their tips for those awkward moments when you're in a room full of strangers that might just turn into your pathway to greater success. Try these tips and consider these insights—maybe you'll wind up in the sequel to Schiff's book.

1. Arrive at a networking event early or on time so that people gravitate to you; it makes the rest of the event less daunting. And know your audience and environment before you engage.

2. Make eye contact.

3. Be a listener first, then you can tailor the information you have to share to match their interests.

4. Remember a specific detail from a conversation and write it on the person's business card to bring it up in future conversations.

5. Turn your phone off and hand out business cards.

6. Ask questions that you actually want to hear the answers to.

7. When introduced to someone, say their name out loud immediately so it sticks in your head.

8. Avoid annoying self-promotion.

9. Everyone at a networking event is a potential client, partner or colleague. Never dismiss someone because you just haven't figured out which of these they are yet.

10. Be sincere in all your interactions. No one likes to feel cornered by someone who clearly has an agenda.

11. Try to help the other person from a business perspective, instead of only thinking about yourself. It comes back full circle.

12. It's not the grades you make, it's the hands you shake.

Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI