I’ve personally been a networking addict since it got me my first movie deal. I recall spending hours and hours on LinkedIn — with no idea what I was doing because I was so new to it.
Yet, my life changed once I started to get the hang of it. Not only because I started learning from my own mistakes, but because the networking experts around that time radically changed my life. (I do not speak lightly when I say that this blog would not exist had several key experts not influenced me.)
That being said though, my networking journey started years ago. And, the list of top networking experts have changed since then. So I thought I’d compile a list of the advice of the world’s (current) leading networking experts.
Keep in mind, all of the people you’ll read about in this list have made this “expert” list in part because they’ve been verified by Forbes contributor, John Corcoran, who writes about building relationships and how to turn those relationships into revenue.
So, even though I have a slightly different definition of the term “expert,” I found the people for this list based on their appearances in Forbes and chose them for their solid content on professional networking.
And, as I dive deeper into each of their works in the coming months, this list will continue to be updated based on who I think the “real” experts are.
So, let’s begin.
Business Networking Advice
Judy Robinett is the author of How to Be a Power Connector: The 5-50-150 Rule, #1 of “The Top Ten Business Books of 2014” by Inc.com.
More than an author, she’s also a business thought leader known as “the woman with the titanium digital Rolodex.” And, she’s been profiled in Inc., Forbes, Venture Beat, Huffington Post, and Bloomberg Businessweek as an example of the new breed of “super connectors” who use their experience and networks to accelerate growth and enhance profitability.
Tip #1: Utilize the “Power Connecting” Strategies
- Go for quality over quantity when building your network. (Bigger doesn’t always mean better.)
- Create strategic relationships by creating a separate business plan specifically for your network — a strategy for developing the connections that will help you succeed (i.e. a business “relationship” plan)
- Get into the right rooms by identifying and joining the right “ecosystems”
*Free guide: How Strategic Are Your Current Relationships?
Robinett defines an “ecosystem” as:
Robinett: “…a web of professional and personal connections, linked by common interests, and sharing knowledge and access unavailable to outsiders.”
So, to get into the right rooms, you must:
- “Identify the ecosystems that are important for your particular business and community. (Make sure you include politics, finance, and media, as these are key ecosystems for everyone.)”
- “Identify the key players in those ecosystems. (Some of these people may be obvious — the presidents of the local banks and largest corporations, for instance — but others might not be as visible. Many angel investors, for example, keep a low profile unless you know someone who can introduce you to them.)”
- “Start researching where the key players appear. (Do they attend certain community functions? Business meetings or conferences? What are their hobbies or personal interests? What charities do they contribute to, and what causes do they support?)”
- “Get yourself into the rooms where [those] key players will be.”
Tip #2: Build a 5+50+100 Network
As said by Robinett herself:
Robinett: “You may try to stay in touch with hundreds of clients, customers, and prospects — but can you really say that you have strong relationships with them? Social science shows us that the maximum number of relationships we can maintain at one time is around 150. Further studies of the gaming world and other online communities confirm that groups break apart when they exceed that size. That’s why I believe a truly powerful, connected network consists of around 150 people, organized in three concentric circles.”
And, those circles are:
- Your 5 closest relationships
- The 50 people most important to your current life and business
- No more than 100 individuals who are key to your long-term goals.
*Free guide: The 5+50+100 Power Network
Jayson Gaignard is a Canadian entrepreneur, networking specialist, and author of the book, Mastermind Dinners: Build Lifelong Relationships by Connecting Experts, Influencers, and Linchpins.
He founded MastermindTalks, an invitation-only conference for entrepreneurs, and Community Made, a private online community for different entrepreneurs at different stages in their business.
Tip #3: Utilize the “Six Framework” (to Invest In Relationships)
Whenever possible, do your best to give value by giving one of the six forms of value below.
- Give resources as value. (“This might be offering recommendations, extending your knowledge and expertise, opening up your rolodex and offering contacts that could become connections for that person…or it could even be opening up your pocket book in a traditional sense and offering capital.”)
- Give emotional resources or emotional value. (“Being someone’s biggest fan is all about noticing when someone is vulnerable, and being their greatest cheerleader…The ‘biggest fan philosophy’ at its core is about addressing someone’s doubts and fears by being their greatest cheerleader. It’s about believing in someone when they may not fully believe in themselves.” You can also give emotional value by giving compliments, emotional support, and other warm gestures of that nature.)
- Give thoughtful gifts. (“…the key word to focus on here is ‘thoughtful’. A good gift makes someone feel seen, and a bad gift does the exact opposite. It can create resentment in the relationship. So, you’re better off giving no gift, than giving a poor one.”)
- Give expressions of gratitude. (William Arthur Ward said “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” So, when you express gratitude to someone, they often know that there’s a gift coming along with it, or that there could be one coming in the future because gratitude can work as a “social IOU.”)
- Give value to their inner circle. (“I always say that if you want to care about somebody, care about who they care about. So, if you want to show someone that you care…Leverage the same investment strategies — resources, biggest fan, gifting, and extend that to their inner circle.”)
- Give follow-ups. (“Follow ups are easy yet effective micro investments you can make in your relationships.” Make your follow-ups personalized, thoughtful, and generally value-giving.)
*Free guide: 6 Ways to Invest In Relationships
Tip #4: Host Great Live Dinners
To host great dinners, follow these three rules (albeit these rules are flexible depending on the situation):
- To get people to come to the dinners that you curate: either have an anchor (a notable person that will draw others to your meal) or create a theme (think of an industry, a topic, or an area and create your meals, and invite people, based on that).
- If you’re trying to build relationships, aim to have six people attend each of the meals that you host.
- To build a deep relationship at the dinner (and open up opportunities for giving value), at the end of the meal, ask, “If we were to meet one year from today with a bottle of champagne, what would we be celebrating?” And, also ask, “What do your friends reach out to you for the most when it comes to advice and feedback?”
*Free guide: 3 Tips for Hosting Great Dinners
Susan McPherson is a serial connector and the founder and CEO of McPherson Strategies, a communications consultancy focused on the intersection of brands and social impact.
McPherson has 25+ years of experience in sustainability communications, and is the author of, The Lost Art of Connecting: The Gather, Ask, Do Method for Building Meaningful Relationships.
Tip #5: Craft and Execute a “Pre-Connect Plan”
Connect with your target contacts before the “official” time to connect at an event or meeting.
McPherson: “Reach out to attendees who have similar interests or passions before the event and have a quick breakfast or lunch with them, so you can start fostering some connections before you hit the large event with all of the overwhelm.”
Michelle Tillis Lederman
Michelle Tillis Lederman is a people expert (more specifically, an expert in leadership, networking, and organizational communication) whose work has a focus on inspiring organizations and individuals to build real relationships and get real results.
She’s made appearances on NBC, CBS, Fox, and hundreds of radio shows across the country. And, she has an interesting insight to share on effective business networking.
Tip #6: Utilize “Peacocking” (to Make Networking Easier)
Lederman: “Wondering what peacocking is? My assistant actually came up with the term when I explained the tip to connecting at a conference. Think about when a peacock spreads its feathers. You notice. You are drawn to it. It works with us humans too. That is peacocking. If you want an easy way to start conversations in a sea of strangers — wear something that draws people’s eye.”
As a general rule, you want to wear something that makes you come across as high-status (without overdoing it, of course). Dressing like you’re the anchor (the notable person invited by the host to attract others to the event) has its perks.
But, Lederman takes it a step further by recommending you add things to your attire that can showcase your attributes, personality, and uniqueness.
That can include:
- A medal you earned or won
- A special pin
- A cool piece of jewelry
Wearing something that helps you stand out is similar to wearing a conversation starter. It can create interest, curiosity and, well, conversations (which will often make your networking experience a whole lot easier).
Dorie Clark was named one of the Top 50 business thinkers in the world by Thinkers50, and was recognized as the #1 Communication Coach in the world by the Marshall Goldsmith Leading Global Coaches Awards.
She’s a consultant and keynote speaker who teaches executive education at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and Columbia Business School, and is the WSJ bestselling author of, The Long Game, Entrepreneurial You, Reinventing You and Stand Out, which was named the #1 Leadership Book of the Year by Inc. magazine.
Tip #7: Host Great Live Virtual Events
Dorie Clark shares a step-by-step approach to hosting great live virtual events. (And, if you’ve been reading around here a while, you know how much I love those.)
You can get the full process in the free guide below, but here’s the brief overview if you’re short on time.
Before the Event:
- Invite the right people — and the right number of people. (“…[limit] yourself to eight guests [including you]…mix close friends and contacts you’d like to cultivate, but remember to make sure there is a sufficient mix of people who don’t know each other, so that no one feels like the “odd man out”…)
- Schedule the virtual event to be a 90-minute session. (“For a virtual business meeting that may feel long. But, because we’re trying to facilitate meaningful conversations, it’s a comfortable amount of time to allow everyone to speak without feeling rushed.”)
- Schedule the virtual event with the time zones of your attendees in mind. (“We hold these from 6 – 7:30 pm ET, but many different times are possible…We’ve discovered that it’s often challenging and messy for people to eat while on video calls, so we bill our events as “virtual cocktail parties.”)
- Make logistics as easy as possible for your attendees. (“Once someone has agreed to attend, send them a calendar invite with a link to the video app you’re using.”)
- A few days before your call, send out an email introducing your guests to each other. (“You should include the names of the participants, a one-sentence description, and a link to their LinkedIn profile.”)
During the Event
- Make people feel comfortable. (“Greet them when they enter and provide guidance about what to expect…Ask each person to spend two minutes introducing themselves with a mix of professional and personal information, such as a favorite hobby or passion. Model this for people, so they get a sense of the appropriate length and tone. Then, as the host, you can choose a person and ask them to go next, rather than waiting for a volunteer.”)
- After initial introductions, ask each participant to answer a specific question. (“Any open-ended question that helps attendees share a little bit about themselves will work.”)
After the Event
- Send a quick follow-up email with everyone CC’d, thanking them for coming and encouraging them to connect with each other one-on-one, if they’d like.
An absolutely wonderful step-by-step process in my opinion. And, if you enjoyed reading it here, take a look at the free guide below because she goes much further in depth with her added details on what exactly to do.
*Free guide: How to Host a Virtual Networking Event
Daivd Burkus is the bestselling author of four books about business, leadership, and networking. His books have won multiple awards and have been translated into dozens of languages. His insights have also been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, USA Today, and other top business publications.
Burkus has quite the resume. And, his tip below provides quite the insight if you’re looking for networking advice to take with you that you don’t hear every day.
*Bonus Tip: Champion Your Community
I won’t mince words, I’ll quote it exactly as Vanessa Van Edwards put it when she interviewed Burkus:
Van Edwards: “In his book, David shares another of Burt’s studies, where he interviewed 673 managers at a supply chain company. He asked each of them, ‘From your perspective, what is the one thing that you would change to improve the company’s supply chain management?’ Of the 673 answers, Burt recorded 455 new ideas. This is crazy, since you would expect most of the managers would have had the same solution!”
So, your tip here:
- Find a way to probe your community for advice as a way to find (and fill) holes or gaps in your business.
You’d be surprised what kind of valuable information you might be able to get from the people you’re already currently surrounded by each day. Information that can help your business reach a new level in far less time.
*Free guide: The Art and Science of Networking with David Burkus
Those are all of my favorite networking tips to grow your business from some of the current leading networking experts. If you apply them with an attitude of working hard and working smart, I believe they will work for you.
At its core, the way to network to grow your business is quite simple. Maybe not always easy, but simple. The way is to simply take care of your network and your network will take care of you. And, if you apply that mindset to give value alongside your use of the strategies above, you’ll see massive acceleration toward the achievement of your goals before too long.
Thanks for reading!