So, what's next?
Take a look at your personality style, communication preferences and strengths.
No, you don't need to take a personality assessment or go see a therapist. (not that there's anything wrong with that) This is more of a self-evaluation task.
Are you an extrovert — a "people person"?
Or, are you more of a "quiet type" who dislikes crowds?
Obviously, if large groups and events aren't your thing, then big mixers and conferences may not be your best networking venues. On the other hand, if you enjoy getting together with lots of people face-to-face, then certain online strategies may not work best for you.
How do you like to communicate with others? Do you prefer to talk by phone or send an email? Do you like group interaction in online discussion forums or do you like to meet with people in person?
It's important to take into consideration both how YOU prefer to stay in touch with people and how OTHERS prefer to be contacted. Your personal communication preferences will affect which networking strategies you will most likely enjoy and be consistent in practicing. If you are an email person, then you will more likely enjoy and be consistent with networking strategies that involved writing or perhaps online activities. If you are more of a "talker" than a "writer", then perhaps public speaking or even one-on-one meetings by phone would be more effective.
As for the communication preferences of others — if you want to interact positively with a certain contact and you want others to respond to your communication attempts, then you need to understand and respect their preferences in order to get the desired results. If your contact prefers the phone and rarely checks email, then sending them dozens of email messages will be ineffective.
In a post for Entrepreneur.com, Ivan Misner discussed the importance of knowing your own strengths before you can even start to create an effective networking strategy. I couldn't agree more. He said:
". . . if you don’t know what your strengths are, then you can’t outline an effective strategy. And without an effective networking strategy, you’re going to end up wasting a lot of valuable time. . . Here’s the thing . . . before you can begin to be an effective networker, it’s crucial to first identify some of the strengths and skill sets that you bring to the table as a business professional."
Misner provides 5 questions that you can ask yourself in order to determine some of your strengths.
Other than the obvious topic of your business or professional expertise, an area of strength that most of us overlook when it comes to networking is our "natural skills" and our hobbies, passions and interests. We all have unique gifts and talents and we certainly all have diverse interests in our life. These are areas of strength that we can incorporate into our networking.
Perhaps you enjoy golf or are a quilter — these are topics of interest that you can share with others that may make you more memorable to them or, better yet, be a common interest that sparks a great conversation.
Perhaps you are passionate about social media — you probably have knowledge and resources to share with others that could help them in their business. Helping others and being seen as knowledgeable and generous gives you credibility and good will with your networking contacts.
Sometimes self-assessment can be difficult. We don't always see our strengths or tendencies toward certain types of behavior. If that is the case for you, enlist the help of those who know you (and like you) to provide constructive feedback on these three topics.
Take the time to be aware of the skills and strengths you can offer and your networking efforts will be much more focused and successful.
Got a tip for a particular personality type or communication style? How about a unique strength you'd like to share? Leave a comment below to get the conversation started.