31021101 - group of friends meeting in coffee shopThe right network can make your business overnight.

That’s just a fact of life — and it’s also fact that a lack of contacts can break even the smartest venture. With that in mind, we racked our brains for some of the best networking advice we’ve picked up over the years. These points are sure to expand your contact list, so grab some business cards, work on your handshake, and get to (net) work!

Don’t be afraid to reach out. A friendly email can go a long way in making a connection. That applies whether you’ve already met this person or are making cold-contact. It can be a little intimidating to make the first move, but you’ll find that many people are receptive to a simple, professional meeting, especially if the focus is informational. Your existing connections can also be a huge help when it comes to meeting new people, if only as serving as a reference for your character. Are they willing to be match-maker for a new contact? You can’t know if you don’t ask!

Be an active listener. Networking is, at its core, a simple act of relationship-building. And in any relationship, it helps to to be a great listener. Pay attention to what people are actually saying. If you don’t understand something, ask a question; if something amazes or interests you, don’t be shy about expressing that; and don’t be afraid to let a pause hang when the other person is speaking.

Know your stuff going into a conversation. It’s always best to do your homework. Whether you’re heading into a conference or meeting a possible mentor for coffee, take the time to research your potential networking mates and stock up on material for conversation. The Internet makes this fairly easy, so feel free to browse someone’s LinkedIn profile or other parts of their digital footprint, including any professional publications or announcements. Don’t be shy, it’s all there to be looked at!

Take every meeting seriously. Life is full of twists and turns, and you never know when you’ll meet someone again. That’s why you should resist the urge to write someone off or view them as a throwaway meeting, even if you see little potential at the time. It also helps to be genuinely curious about the people around you. Sometimes the best networking opportunities come up in settings you wouldn’t imagine, and you may find your next big professional opportunity through conversation with someone you meet at your kid’s soccer game or in the next seat on a crowded airplane. Don’t be overbearing in this (no need to press a business card in the hand of literally everyone who passes by), but also don’t short yourself by being shy or unfriendly when meeting new people.

We want to be right at the top of your contact list. Be sure to network with us on social media and contact us through email, phone or our online scheduler to set up a meeting!