15 Tips You Can Steal From Today’s Top Networkers

(As featured in Forbes – September 29, 2014)

Written by: Seth Porges

“Networking” can often sound like a dirty word. Those who are bad at it dread it, and those who are good at it tend to banish the word to the realm of cliché. Still, when it comes to making friends and nurturing connections, we all know a few folks who excel at this dark art. To peek behind the curtain, I called up some of the most connected people I’ve encountered or been led to by my personal network—business colleagues, people I’ve interviewed in the past, or simply folks whose social graces I’ve long admired—to see what these master networkers do to make and maintain their vast personal networks. We’re way beyond “firm handshake” territory here.

Find Efficient Ways To Bring People Together
“Every two weeks, I host a six to eight person dinner party at a restaurant that’s been on my list. Then, instead of taking coffee meetings, I invite everyone who asks for one to the dinner. This means I’m more efficient with my time during the week, and always have an excuse to try out a new restaurant with a group of potential friends.” – Courtney Boyd-Myers, founder of audience.io, a New York and London-based audience development firm

“Become the center point of your network,” – Matt Michelsen, founder and CEO of The Backplane.

Follow Up—And Give Before You Ask
“Ninety percent of success is following up. We follow up and create value for the people we just met—and do it in a tactful way—always creating value first before we ever negotiate for anything. If we ever negotiate a transcation in our favor, we’ve already created value.” – Demetri Argyropoulos, founder and CEO of Prima Worldwide

If You Open Up, So Do They
“Listen but also don’t be afraid to truly share—even if it’s about how you ‘messed up on x or y in the office’ that day. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you allow others to see your passion in an unfiltered way, as well as establish a level of trust and confidante status between you and your new friend.”  – Elliot Tomaeno, founder Astrsk PR

“In the process, try to make friends. I can’t tell you how many friendships have emerged. And yes, they cross between personal and business. But I’m double-richer because of it.” – Rudina Seseri, partner at Fairhaven Capital

Remember Things About People
“Whenever I add someone new to my phonebook, I use the ‘Notes’ section to write down one or two things they said that interested me that I want to look up when I’m back at my computer. I have everything in there from favorite New Yorker articles to the Greek symbology of someone’s tattoo. Even though I started the practice out of my own curiosity, keeping track of these tidbits of conversations ends up impressing people when you can still recall those details at a run-in a couple months later.” –Mallory Blair, cofounder, Small Girls PR

“Learn and remember everything you can about a person.” – Matt Michelsen, founder and CEO of The Backplane

Be A Go-To Source For Connections…
“I make my Rolodex available and I don’t make introductions with an anterior motive. Humans are really really good at spotting disinginuity. If I help a friend with a connection because I’m going to ask for something back it really doesn’t work. It happens naturally.” – Rudina Seseri, partner at Fairhaven Capital

“Truth is: If you win, I win. You have to not give a damn about receiving something in return for your connection and networking. The simple joy of connecting to connect is a win. In some strange way it always works out for me in the end. Those that have deep master plans for helping and connecting others don’t have a wealthy career. Those that connect for the joy of connecting always seem to be super successful.” – Joseph Lucchese, founder of the Pro-Ject event series

…But Ask Permission Before Making Introductions
“Ask permission before connecting people, especially via email. This probably seems obvious, but never do the blind connect. It’s the worst. Ask permission from your contact or friend before into-ing them to someone. Mostly likely they’ll be stoked about it, but they’ll always appreciate you asking anyway, just in case they’d like to politely decline.” – Lindsey Green, VP at the pubic relations firm SKDKnickerbocker

Use Your Tech Tools
“People often think networking equals meeting people. While face-to-face conversation is the best way to get to know someone, it’s not scaleable. I’ve been fortunate to connect with thousands of people across the world by blogging and tweeting. Write it once, and it can spread indefinitely. Last week a woman came up to me while I was working at a cafe. She introduced herself and told me that a blog post I wrote a year ago, motivated her to move to San Francisco to pursue a role in startups.” – Ryan Hoover, founder,Product Hunt

“If you don’t have immediate reason to drop somebody an email, it’s just as productive and almost more appropriate to connect with them on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, after the event or—why not?—at the event.” – Leiti Hsu, radio host and professional connector within the NYC food and beverage industry

“Follow up on relevant social channels like Instagram and like a handful of their photos. People like people that follow them and like their photos. They will remember you longer.” – Rameet Chawla, founder of mobile design and development firmFueled

Don’t Forget To Network Down
“It might seem counterintuitive, but I prefer networking with people who are a few steps behind me in their careers. First of all, it’s less intimidating than trying to snag a minute with an established bigwig; and second, younger people have their own kind of advice to share. Plus, they’re on their way up! If you show people they’re valuable when they’re young, they will remember you as they ascend. Sometimes it takes a few years for this type of networking to pay off, but you never know where someone will end up. Your former intern could be a power player before you know it. Good news for you if you treated her as an equal from day one.” – Tory Hoen, Director of Content & Communications at MM.LaFleur

The Right Way To Ask For Business Cards
“Asking for cards still feels awkward. It always will. Practice saying it like it just occurred to you in that moment, with excitement and wonder and a slight nod of the head for emphasis. A meek ask makes it all more uncomfortable.” – Leiti Hsu, a radio host and professional connector within the NYC food and beverage industry

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