10 Easy Ways to Be a Better, Non-Awkward Networker

Networking is about forming genuine, authentic relationships.

Answer by Nelson Wang, VP of Partnerships at Toptal, on Quora:

Networking isn’t about exchanging business cards or handshakes or getting deals done.

Networking is about getting to know other people. Networking is about helping others. Networking is about learning. Networking is about forming genuine, authentic relationships.

Networking is critical to your career and personal success.

In a study done by Granovetter, he found that 56 percent of those that he talked to had found their job through a personal connection.

Want proof that networking is powerful for your career? Ever since my first job at Cisco, my last 3 jobs have all happened because of personal connections.

MIT researchers have also found that the more socially connected the employees were, the better they performed.

Over the last eleven years, I’ve been networking nonstop. For some quick context, I have 7,479 followers and 6,535 connections on LinkedIn. These connections range from account managers to CEOs.

Here are the top 10 tips I’ve learned that can launch you to networking success:

  1. Stop pushing your agenda. Did you know that research has shown that people evaluate everyone they meet on two things? They are “warmth” and “competence.” Guess what? Warmth matters more. So just try to be friends with people. Get to know them. They are human beings just like you and me. Don’t treat them like a number or a potential sale. Treat them with respect and have a genuine curiosity to learn more about who they are. Once you build a relationship and help them first, they will typically want to return the favor later on when asked.
  2. Realize that some of your best connections are existing ones. Reconnecting with your existing network is incredibly powerful because you already have a relationship with them. For example, recently I’ve been inviting people to an event I’m hosting. When I reached out to my existing network, I got a much higher response and acceptance rate versus people I hadn’t met before.
  3. Your new business card is your LinkedIn app. Add people on LinkedIn instead. Now you have a virtual connection to that person forever and don’t have to worry about carrying around cards all the time. You also don’t have to worry about losing their card. Or no longer having their contact info if they switch jobs. See why a virtual connection on LinkedIn is so powerful?
  4. Get over being shy. Learn to say hello to random strangers. Introduce yourself with a confident handshake and have strong eye contact. Not sure what to say? “Hey, how’s it going. I’m (insert your first name here)” works for me nearly 90% of the time. Keep it simple. You don’t have to be witty. You don’t have to be super charismatic. You just have to be nice and friendly. Try smiling, too.
  5. Partner up. It’s easier to approach others when you have someone with you. It won’t feel as intimidating, especially if you’re approaching a group of people. If you didn’t go to the event with someone, find someone else who’s also alone there and see if they want to pair up with you when you’re mingling.
  6. Two questions:
    1. “What brings you here?” — get to know their “why” and motivations.
    2. “How can I help you?” — show that you want to add value first. This builds relationships.
    3. 99% of the time if you do this well they will naturally follow up and ask you the same. Okay, so I made up that percentage, but you get the point.
  7. Follow up and deliver. If you offered to help someone and you can, follow up within at least 2 days and deliver on your promise.
  8. Follow the 1-Minute Rule. “But Nelson, I’m afraid of committing to a huge task! I don’t have time for that.” Then don’t. One system you can implement is the 1-minute rule. Only promise to help someone if it takes less than a minute of your time (like an email introduction, for example). This way you won’t get swamped with a huge undertaking that you can’t deliver on.
  9. Connect people. If you know two people can benefit by meeting each other, connect them. People will often really appreciate this. I just did this for a friend by connecting him to a founder of a hot startup. That meeting helped him gain one of his first customers and an article in Adweek. All it took me was a 1-minute email.
  10. Host events. Host dinner parties, happy hours, or picnics to get people out of the “conference” mindset. People often form better connections at these types of informal events because it’s simply a more comfortable environment. If you have a tight budget, make it a potluck!

Hope these 10 tips help you crush it out there! Happy networking.

This article was originally published at Inc.com.