Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on April 30th, 2009

Five Networking Tips

There is a legend circulating Austin around the circumstances of Matthew McConaughey’s rise to fame, and more specifically how he was cast in his breakout role in Dazed and Confused. Rumor has it that while McConaughey was a College of Communications student at the University of Texas, he caught wind that the casting crew was hanging out at the bar of the Driskill Hotel in Austin’s infamous Sixth Street District.

He used his charm and networking skills to convince them that he was the epitome of a small town, homegrown, Texas country boy. Moments after the nation viewed him ‘loving those redheads’ and making sure freshmen were watching the leather, man, McConaughey instantly put the ‘sexy’ back into Texas.

While most of us won’t be able to beat bongo drums close to the beat of McConaughey’s success, that doesn’t mean we can’t hone our own networking skills and dominate our own industry. There are ways to bulk up the rolodex, iPhone book, facebook fanpage, twitter followers, and email contacts without assault people with business cards. Here are five networking tips will keep you connected.

1. Ask Questions... and then ask more

Asking questions is a great way to learn about everything, from secret tricks to your trade, to everything you didn’t want to know about Joe in Accounting. People tend to like talking about themselves, and sometimes get personal. The more personal investment you have in someone, the more they will trust you with other parts of your relationship as well.

2. Join Associations and Committees

Getting involved in organizations is a great way to understand the industry’s landscape and meet the movers and shakers of the ladder. If you jump right into the committees these giants sit on, you will get more opportunities to graze with lions than any of your contemporaries may ever see.

3. Go To Events. Then Create Your Own

Most industry events involve tons of networking, there is seems to never be enough opportunities to really get to know someone. Try throwing your own event through your company and/or close industry colleagues and invite all those people that you would like to strengthen that professional friendship.

4. Research the Crowd

Find out who will be at what events. Figure out who you want to meet, and what you are going to say to them. Once you have found them and told them what you wanted, revert to tip number one.

5. The Right Place at the Right Time

One tip that many may feel is considered “luck” is being in the right spot to meet people. If you are able to read a crowd or party, and have done your research, it’s not too difficult to meet who you want. I was at an event a few months back where a confidence lady was standing next to the exit after the keynote speaker. Everyone assumed she helped throw the event and everyone thanked her, while some handed her their card. It just so happened that she was with the competing company of the sponsor...

At the end of the day, you don't have to be Matthew McConaughey to dominate. Most conferences are all about the amount of free drink tickets and social networking. Just like in life, people like to transact with a combination of talent, knowledge and personality. If you can provide that along with a dash of integrity, you’ve got yourself a cocktail for success.

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