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March 9, 2015

Learn to Love Networking. Really.

Heather Levin

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Copy of strategic_connections_book_cover_80I run my own small business and, several years ago, I joined a business group to network with other entrepreneurs in my community. I was nervous about going to the first event, a socializing dinner, but I'd invested in the membership and was bound and determined to make use of it.

To say I crashed and burned is an understatement. I felt like a phony the entire evening, handed out exactly three business cards, and never went to another event for the rest of the year. This was my first experience of "networking," and it wasn't a good one.

If you're nodding your head in sympathy, then you're the type of person who, like me, can learn a lot from "Strategic Connections," a new book on networking by Anne Baber, Lynne Waymon, André Alphonso, and Jim Wylde.

The book first convinces you that, no matter what you do, you can't afford not to know how to network. You can network with people in your organization to build teams, get resources, and share knowledge. Networking with people outside your organization can lead to endless opportunities for them, for you, and for your organization.

"Strategic Connections" contains some fresh tips and genuinely useful strategies for networking. Many of them are the kind you can start using right away. One of my favorites had to do with planning out your conversation before you go to a networking event.

At first, this might sound a bit phony, but think about it. You might have already planned your pitch, and you're probably planning what you're going to wear. Why not spend some time thinking of intelligent and meaningful things to talk about? This will help you engage in deeper conversations with other people, and make you more memorable.

The audio clip below, from our Book Insight into "Strategic Connections," explains how to do this.

Listen to the full Book Insight in the Mind Tools Club ¦ Install Flash Player.

Another challenge that many of us face with networking is remembering names. Forgetting a name is embarrassing but, when you remember someone's name, chances are they're going to remember you. It demonstrates your intelligence and consideration, and you'll stand out from the crowd.

The authors have some good advice on how we can do this better.

One tip is to ask a question or make a comment about the person's name. For instance, you could ask, "Do you preferred to be called Jen or Jenny?" or, "O’Grady sounds like an Irish name. Is that right?" Doing this allows you to say their name, and helps cement it in your memory.

You'll help other people remember your name by saying your first name twice, like, "Hi, I’m Bob. Bob Parker." You can also say something memorable about your name; here are some examples from the book:

“Hi, I'm Wade, Wade Johnson. Wade, like wade in the water.”

Or, “Hi, I'm Louise, Louise Poppei. Even though the spelling might not look like it, you say my last name like the flower – poppy.”

I thought these were great suggestions and, right away, I started figuring out how I could introduce myself to make it easier for people to remember my name.

"Strategic Connections" is one of those books that offers something genuinely useful on every page. What's more, these strategies make networking seem easy, not like "work" at all. It will change how you look at networking, and you just might find that you learn to love it.

What have you found to be effective when you're networking? Join the discussion below!

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