In a previous blog post I wrote about the importance of using social media to connect with stakeholders in tech transfer. Now it’s time to step out from behind the screen and further establish those relationships that are going to help you be the most successful you can be.
Some these tips are direct networking, while some are what I refer to as seed networking, where your efforts will be planted so that they can be sowed later.
If you want to make an impression on your stakeholders you must put some time into networking and establishing those important relationships.
Make Reading an Active Sport
You no doubt read extensively on what’s going on in research and development on the academic and commercialization sides. If there’s an article that moves you – maybe something you want more information about or you want to express appreciation for it – reach out to the author. Often articles contain a social media handle or an email in a by-line at the bottom. Express your opinion about the article and connect with the author. This small step can be the beginning of a networking relationship.
Go Where Your Stakeholders Go
To connect with someone, do it where they feel most comfortable. This may mean a meet and greet for researchers, a technology networking event, or something specific to technology transfer professionals.
But you also don’t want to wait for events. If one isn’t on the horizon, create your own by making yourself available wherever your stakeholders are. Get out there and introduce yourself to new researchers or people in R&D on the corporate side. You can also do this virtually for people who live a distance from you.
Focus on the Goal
Serendipity is great in movies, but leaving your networking up to chance doesn’t do your career any good. If you’re attending an event or conference, and you have access to the guest list, create a game plan for yourself of who you want to meet and make note of places you know they’ll be, like at a particular session (because they’re speaking). Creating a networking goal will keep you focused and make the most of your limited time at the event.
Even if there’s not an event planned, deciding who you’d like to meet makes it easier to achieve. You can use social media to follow someone’s career and professional publications and formulate a plan on how you can introduce yourself outside of an event. If you share a colleague, ask for an introduction.
Be Memorable, Get Noticed
Every comedian needs a shtick; actors or characters have their props. While it may seem silly, standing out from the crowd by wearing a distinctive color or accessory, accomplishes many things. It allows people to notice you (and direct others your way) from across the room and your item may serve as an icebreaker for conversation. Also colors tend to attract or distract. Remember President Ronald Reagan’s preference for red?
When in Doubt, Talk about Them
For introverts especially, making small talk can be hard. One way to handle this is to ask questions of the person you’re speaking with. While most people enjoy talking about themselves. Not all do. If you find the person giving very abrupt answers, turn the questions to their work and see if you can’t get them to open up that way.
Remember, don’t drill them like it’s an interview. Ask with interest. When someone feels your sincerity, they will remember you.
Be Free with the Compliments
Often we hold our compliments back. In a networking setting this is the time to make the most of them. Compliment colleagues on their work. Compliment people on articles they’ve written and follow it up with a question for further explanation. They will feel appreciated, admired, and enjoy the conversation.
Networking is about making an impression. You can excel at events with a little preparation but the most effective networker is able to use these skills of making others feel good in his/her presence to expand his/her professional contacts.
After all like the poet Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
If you’d like to network with me, I’ll be attending the annual LES meeting in New York City at the end of October. Hope to see you there.
Image credit via GraphicStock