Carrie Wilkerson, the Barefoot Executive, is a networking genius. In a video I recently watched, she made these KEY POINTS about how you can more effectively network:
When you meet someone, make a personal connection. Find out what they are interested in. Notice what they talk about, what excites them, what part of conversation they expand on or the topic that lights them up.
Shift your thinking to ask “what can I do for them?” instead of “what can I get them to do for me?” By starting with the other person’s interests, issues, challenges or problems, you put yourself in the position of being of service to them. Generosity always is its own reward, and it also is such a powerful basis on which to develop a relationship. When I’m genuinely interested in people, I get such pleasure from our interaction. And what ends up happening is that the relationship begins to be reciprocal. I am always surprised by what people are willing to do for me when I do for them WITHOUT EXPECTATION OF RETURN.
Always take handwritten notes to remember people – in a notebook, write down everything you remember about the person: family information, interests they have, circumstances under which you met them, anything funny they said or something they said they liked or wanted, people you know in common, and anything that distinguishes them in your mind (facial features, hair, body type, colors they wore, eye color, you name it!)
Send follow-up (FU) notes with a personal touch. Mention that book they liked and recommend one similar to it. Say you hope their child’s team won the game. Tell them you loved their site (even successful people need validation and compliments!). Let them know how much they helped you and what value you got from their meeting, such as a new thought, a new way of thinking about your path, or a reframing of the key issues facing an industry.
I love this advice. Networking doesn't have to be complicated…you're just making a connection. Many people don't know how to do this well, but I think framing it the way you have here is extremely helpful. Thinking about how you can relate to someone and considering what you can offer them (rather than what you can get from them) will ultimately benefit you more. I have some networking tips to offer here: http://www.phcconsulting.com/WordPress/2008/09/09/easy-networking-tips/