Facilitating Connections

Facilitating Connections: A Networking Warm-up

By Kimberly Douglas, SPHR

Does building a good network of contacts seem out of reach? Leave you cold? It's time to light a fire under any hesitation you have and warm up to the fact that effective networking is within your grasp. What if you could learn from the best practices of others? Plug into the business community as a new resident of Atlanta? Find your ideal job? Build your business? Boost your visibility in the market? Regardless of your specific goals, FireFly Facilitation offers these tips to cast a warm glow on your networking activities.

Adjust your networking mindset. Many people see networking only as a way to get what they want. Instead, think first of how you can be a resource to others - and mean it! It can be gratifying and fun to connect people who can mutually benefit from the relationship. What goes around, comes around.

Ask great networkers how they do it. We all know how good it feels to be asked for our ideas and thoughts on a given topic. Find out who is known for having a great network within your industry. To improve your networking skills and comfort level, ask them to share a few "sparks of experience" that will light your way. Then, you can become a great networking role model by sharing those ideas with someone else, and so on, and so on….

Read great books on networking. Power Networking by Donna Fisher is a great place to start if you want to learn more about the "Golden Rule" approach to networking. Ask others for recommendations of books that they have found to be beneficial. Choose a few great tips from the books and then use these as easy conversation starters at your next function.

Use technology to help you. Personal Digital Assistants, or PDAs, can carry a wealth of information beyond basic contact data, such as a persons area of expertise, how you met, things you have in common, etc. Capture anything that will help you to make a connection and better remember them. Categorize your data so that it is easier to call up a name - and refer that person to someone else. Consider investing in a business card scanner to quickly and accurately input information directly into your contact management program.

Get to meetings and events early. You know how uncomfortable it feels to arrive late to an event that is already in full swing. If networking is important to you, arrive early so that you can get your bearings. Offer to help the event hosts with setting up; it will make you a winner with them, and you will immediately feel connected. Once the networking gets underway, invite anyone standing alone to join your group. Actively introduce people you have just met to others whom you know, especially those who could mutually benefit from knowing each other.

Practice your skills by getting really involved in a few, well-chosen associations. Ask those great networkers which associations they would recommend joining and why. Visit one or two events before you make your final decision. Once you have joined, really become a part of the organization by volunteering on a committee or in planning for an event. Not only will you be able to easily meet other people as a part of your volunteer role, but you will also have something of mutual interest to talk about when you attend meetings and events!

Warm up to networking - for results that take flight! Start with the right mindset. Add a thirst for knowledge to improve your skills. Throw in some technological advances, and you are well on your way. Be the person others seek out because of whom you know and your willingness to facilitate connections.
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