I must admit, for a long time in my life, I did not know the importance of networking nor was I interested in it or connecting with NEW people. I was seriously intimidated to speak in group settings because of my Caribbean accent, especially in a room of seemingly prominent people.  I lacked self-confidence and did not think I mattered, so I stayed close to my friends and/or busied myself with the refreshments so I would not be forced into conversation, except to maybe smile and nod. Does this sound like you? I bet it does.

Coming full circle to today, my friends are constantly telling me I handle networking very seamlessly.  Truth is, my journey is surely not without some serious growing pains though! What they do not know is that networking was and still is a work in progress for me.  Every time I step into a room or meet someone new, I still have to find my level of comfort. Networking is a confidence game and I spent a long time building up mine.

Listening to Judy Robinett recently led me to confirm that I am doing something right. I have found myself a formula! As she says, "Nothing happens without quality relationships. These plus strategy equals a specific goal."

Her advice for successful networking suggests that you:

1. Develop a mindset before networking. She says “everybody has problems and needs help; connect the dots and then leverage those dots.” Her suggested strategy is to identify the person(s) you would like to meet and do some research on them before you get to the event. Find out what is important to this person, where they hang out, what they are involved in. Once you gather enough information, now you have a conversation starter.

2. Have an updated Linkedin profile, then start following people. This of course is for connecting on social media. Again, find out what they care about. If you are using other platforms, tweet some information to them, always engaging on some level they care about. Make sure to be upbeat, open and follow up with them. Humanize the interaction to make an impression, not just make a connection.

“Do not be afraid to show people who you are.”

3. Be careful about what you post online because your reputation should precede you. Also, be on the lookout for red flags and be picky of who is in your network. Confident people are a plus! If we are faced with negative reviews or attacks, preempt them with positive stories and blog articles that would show up first in a search of your name on Google. There is always a troll somewhere online. Bah humbug!

Have level of empathy, authenticity and compassion in your dealings as well.

4. Find a way to brand yourself and be seen. Robinett proposes you do a few things to market yourself to attract higher-end clients. They include establishing yourself as a thought leader; volunteering to be on local TV show; blogging and writing white papers; or even public speaking.

5. Get referrals. This is the No. 1 way to begin engaging behind the scenes. Ask for a warm introduction from whomever is referring you and when you connect with the new person, always ask what ideas they have for you and who do they recommend you talk to. Most of all she says,

“Get out of your comfort zone and kick fear to the curb.”

Judy Robinett is the author of How to Be a Power Connector: The 5+50+150 Rule (McGraw-Hill, May 2014), a book that provides instant, effective strategies for meeting the people you need to know and bonding with them fast to further your goals and theirs. Robinett is a business thought leader who is known as “the woman with the titanium digital Rolodex.” She has been profiled in Fast Company, Forbes, Venture Beat, Huffington Post, and Bloomberg BusinessWeek and has more than 30 years experience as an entrepreneur and corporate leader.

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