Become a Networking Master

NetworkingJon Levy may not be a Wall Street billionaire or hotshot advertising executive, but over the past five years, he’s built the Influencers, a network of over 400 interesting and impressive people that includes everyone from Nobel laureates to Olympic athletes. As an independent marketing consultant specializing in consumer behavior, a diverse, strong network is beneficial to his career. But beyond that, Levy has a genuine passion for connecting influential people from different fields and seeing what these relationships yield.

The Business Insider asked Levy to share some of the tactics in an article entitled, Amazing Things Happen at This Master Networker’s New York Apartment. He progressed from a low-profile New Yorker to the leader of a growing network of power players. Levy shared twenty of his techniques, but ten of them resonated with me. However, you can read the original article here.

Here are my top ten (10).

1. Most influential people operate on a different level – He says he left thinking about this quote: “The fundamental element that defines the quality of your life is the people you surround yourself with and the conversations you have with them.” If you want to surround yourself with executives and successful entrepreneurs, you first need to understand and respect that the lives of high-demand people are fundamentally different from even most chronically busy people, Levy says. Their schedules are likely filled with travel plans and meetings, with scarce free time dedicated to family.
2. Add value without expectations – On that note, you should be thinking of how you can add value to a potential connection without expecting anything in return, at least immediately. “If you’re a giver, then you build quality relationships, and with those relationships you’re exposed to opportunity over the long-term,” “You actually increase your own luck so far as you contribute things to other people.
3. Use the double opt-in system – In keeping with being a “giver,” you should always be aware of which of your connections could be interested in meeting each other, and email is the easiest way to do so remotely. Levy is comfortable connecting his closest friends through an email addressed to both of them. If there’s a chance that the busier connection simply doesn’t have the time or desire to speak with the other person, a private email to both parties asking if they’d like to connect allows you to screen refusals without hurting anyone’s feelings.
4. Befriend gatekeepers – You’ll find that many of the world’s busiest people have assistants taking care of their emails, phone calls, and schedules. If that’s the case, it’s in your best interest to be on cordial terms with them if you’re looking to connect with their boss. “If you can make friends with [the gatekeepers], you will be on their schedule. He says that once he’s met someone in person and gotten their personal contact information, he’ll first try them directly the next time he wants to reach out. And if they don’t respond, he’ll try again with their assistant looped in.
5. Organize your contacts – Levy uses Google docs like a traditional phone book, but with contacts arranged by industry and ranked by the likelihood that they’ll do business together. He keeps separate lists for those in his Influencers community, potential members he’s reached out to, and those he’s interested in eventually connecting with.
6. Create a diverse network of givers – Prioritize personality over perceived “usefulness.” The reason is, every time you add an additional person that’s in your industry, you’re not expanding your network very much because you all probably know the same people. Most will think that investing in these relationships do not makes much sense.
7. Have a conversation starter – Everyone’s been in a situation where you’re stuck with a stranger and neither of you has anything to say. So instead of talking about the weather or your commute, says Levy, “I always have a story of something I’ve been doing recently or a book that I’ve been reading.”
8. Tell a story that is clear and compelling – When you tell a story, make sure it has a clear point and a punchline, whether it’s a takeaway or a joke. You should strive to be memorable when you’re meeting new people, and the best way to do so is through good storytelling.
9. End conversations gracefully – “I used to be absolutely awful, really awkward, at ending conversations,” Levy says, laughing. “The last moments of a conversation will define how people remember you, so you want to get really good at a solid ending,” instead of being rudely (or strangely) abrupt. Over the phone, wait for a lull in the conversation and then give an indication that you need to be excused for something else or are happy with how the conversation went. Tell them it was a pleasure speaking with them and that you’ll make sure to follow-up on certain points. In person, Levy says he always takes an extra beat to make eye contact with the person he’s finished speaking with so that it doesn’t seem as if he’s running away.
10. Keep meetings brief – There’s no need to let an introductory meeting with a new connection last longer than 45 minutes, Levy says. And if you’re grabbing coffee or lunch, the ideal is probably a half hour. “It’s better to leave the conversation having something to talk about and feeling like you need to connect again rather than feeling that the energy’s died,” Levy says.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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