Use These Networking Strategies to Never Eat Alone

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Never Eat Alone" by Keith Ferrazzi. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you want to build a professional network to help advance your career or further your business growth? What are some networking strategies that can help you develop meaningful professional relationships?

According to author and entrepreneur Keith Ferrazzi, developing mutually beneficial professional relationships is crucial to career success. In Never Eat Alone, Ferrazzi shares four networking strategies that have been instrumental in helping him climb up the career ladder.

Keep reading for Keith Ferrazzi’s networking strategies.

Networking Strategies: Network Your Way to Success

Ferrazzi believes that networking is crucial to career success for several reasons. Becoming a prolific networker will give you a reputation for having good people skills, making it easier for you to gain positions managing others. Likewise, if you already know and get on well with company leaders, they may choose to do business with you rather than people they don’t know. Further, he shares four networking strategies that have helped him meet like-minded people and build strong professional relationships.

Strategy #1: Network by Arranging a Meeting

In the context of this strategy, “meeting” doesn’t necessarily mean a traditional business meeting. It simply means any situation in which you’ve invited a person to meet with you face-to-face. Here are four meeting scenarios that you could try:

  1. Go for coffee. The relaxed atmosphere of most coffee shops makes them the perfect setting for a casual meetup. 
  2. Go for a meal. Ferrazzi argues that food is an excellent icebreaker: Even if you and your contact can’t find anything else to talk about, you can discuss your meals’ quality.
  3. Engage in a shared interest. For example, if you both love baseball, go to a game together. Your contact will feel comfortable and relaxed when doing something they enjoy. This means they’re more likely to enjoy spending time with you. Likewise, when your contact discovers that the two of you have a shared interest, they’ll automatically feel that you have a “connection,” making your friendship easier to cultivate. 
  4. Invite the person to a dinner party you’re hosting. Making your new contact feel welcome in your home—and providing delicious food in the process—is an easy way to earn their esteem.
How to Arrange a Meeting

You can arrange a meeting with a new contact either by email or by phone. In either case, you can increase the chances of the person agreeing to meet with you by:

1) Making the person aware of your existence before you contact them. For example, if you and your desired contact have a mutual friend, ask that friend to tell the contact you’re going to call them. Even more importantly, request that your friend say nice things about you. Their backing will give you more credibility in the eyes of your potential contact.

2) Immediately stating what you have to offer. Most professionals don’t have time for long phone conversations or to read long emails. Unless you grab their attention quickly by revealing what you can offer them, they’ll make an excuse to end the call, or will stop reading the email. 

3) Offering a specific invitation to meet. Suggest a date, time, place, and type of meeting: “How about we meet for lunch next Tuesday at 12, at the bistro around the corner from your office?” People are more likely to follow through on concrete plans.

What to Talk About During the Meeting

Here are four things to talk about during networking meetings::

  1. Shared interests: As we’ve already noted, bonding with someone is easier if you have a shared interest. Not only will talking about this interest strengthen your connection, but you’ll also have fun as you both enthuse about the thing you love.
  2. Interesting facts: These could be interesting facts about yourself or about the world more broadly. Presenting intriguing information will help to keep your new contact engaged in your conversation.
  3. What motivates your contact: Finding out what motivates a person will help you to further establish what you should offer them. For instance, if they’re motivated by a desire for wealth, you can earn their approval by sending them high-paying job vacancies. 
  4. What you have to offer. You hopefully already indicated what you can offer your contact while you were arranging your meeting. Don’t be afraid to reiterate this point when you actually meet the person, to remind them why getting to know you is a good idea.

Strategy #2: Network at Conferences

Conferences are great places to network because they’re full of people you already have something in common with: You’re all interested in the conference’s theme. Here are some tips on how to make strong professional connections at conferences:

  • Help to organize the conference. You’ll gain “insider knowledge” of who’s attending the event, meaning you can research potential connections far in advance. 
  • Speak at the conference. When the attendees hear that you’re making a speech, they’ll immediately assume that you’re an important figure in your field. They’ll therefore be more receptive to your networking advances.
  • Ask questions during talks. If your question is insightful, you’ll pique people’s interest in you. 
  • Organize an unofficial conference meetup with people you want to network with. For instance, suggest a trip to the conference center’s bar to discuss the talks. This ensures that you get to spend time with the people you want to get to know.
  • Make friends with a “big name” at the event—for example, a speaker with an insightful discussion topic. These popular attendees are often introduced to dozens of people. If you’re lucky, your new friend will introduce you to these people, who you can then network with.
  • Come armed with interesting information. For instance, research the best restaurants near the conference venue. Then, share this information regularly to gain a reputation for being “in the know.” Potential new contacts will approach you for information.
  • Master the art of creating a strong connection with someone new in a short time. You can do this by asking the person a couple of personal questions; revealing something vulnerable about yourself; and making it clear that you’re listening to the person, for instance, by asking questions about what they’ve said. 
  • Only try to connect with three or four new people at each conference. Try to network with any more people than this, and you’ll find yourself prematurely ending conversations so that you can move on to speaking to the next person. Such behavior is rude and won’t win you any new friends.  

Strategy #3: Network Using Social Media

This strategy involves connecting with new people using social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. There are two ways to do this:

Method #1: Approach social media users directly. First, decide which social media users you want to connect with—for example, professionals who work in your industry. Then, send these users a private message expressing your interest in getting to know them.

Method #2: Inspire social media users to approach you. Create compelling social media content that piques people’s interest and makes them want to get to know you. Types of compelling content include:

  • Posts about what you have to offer: for instance, your skills. These posts demonstrate why connecting with you is a good idea. 
  • Posts with useful information: for example, tips on how to succeed in your field. Social media users are more likely to engage with people who produce helpful content.
  • Posts about your successes: for instance, about a recent promotion. These posts attract users who want to bask in your positivity.
  • Posts about your failures: for example, about a business opportunity that came to nothing. Being honest about the harder parts of your life will earn social media users’ respect and help them relate to you.
  • Posts on controversial topics: for instance, about a current political issue. These are often the posts that get the most attention, as social media users rush to either agree or argue with your perspective.
  • Posts that are unique: for instance, that take a format that nobody else has tried before. People are more likely to follow you if they can’t find content like yours anywhere else.  

No matter what type of content you choose to create, make sure that it reflects your authentic personality. If you present a “fake” version of yourself on social media and then go on to meet your followers in “real life,” they’ll be disappointed to discover that you’re a totally different person. 

Strategy #4: Network Using Traditional Media

Getting coverage in a media outlet—for example, by publishing an opinion piece in a newspaper—exposes you to an audience of thousands or sometimes millions of people. Some of these readers will be so impressed by your ideas that they want to hear more about them. They’ll reach out to you—and thus, a new connection is born.

The simplest way to get media coverage is to follow these five steps:

  1. Decide what type of content you want to pitch and what topic you want to write about. For instance, you may want to write a lengthy opinion piece on a prescient social issue. To increase the chances that editors accept your idea, make it original—for example, approach an old issue from a new angle.
  2. Decide which publication you’d like to feature in. Start small—for instance, with a local newspaper. National media outlets are unlikely to accept a pitch from someone who’s had no previous media exposure. 
  3. Write and send your pitch. Describe your piece’s main point, why you think that point is interesting, and why you’re the right person to write about it. Editors are busy people and will likely ignore any pitches that take a long time to read. 
  4. Follow up with the publication. A few days to a week after you send your pitch, email the editor to find out whether they plan to run your piece. If they do, start to draft the final article. If they don’t, be gracious: If you berate the editor for rejecting you, they won’t be open to working with you in the future.
  5. Send the completed article to the publication. Once it’s in print (or posted online), share it widely: for instance, post a link to it on social media. Getting media coverage is an impressive achievement that you shouldn’t be afraid to flaunt.

Miscellaneous Networking Strategies

Ferrazzi also suggests a few miscellaneous networking strategies. These are supplementary networking strategies to use alongside those outlined previously—they may not help you gain dozens of new contacts, but they will introduce you to a few. 

Strategy #1: Ask a friend to help you host a joint networking event to which you both invite a few contacts that the other person doesn’t know. Everyone benefits: You, your co-host, and the invitees all get to meet new people. 

There are two things to bear in mind if you choose to use this strategy:

  • Pick a friend you trust as your co-host—not someone who’s going to embarrass or belittle you in front of the contacts you invite.
  • You and your co-host should invite the same number of people. Resentment may grow if one host gets to meet more new people than the other.

Strategy #2: Found an organization related to one of your personal or professional interests—for instance, a book club, or a group for local young professionals in your industry. Advertise the group on social media, in your local newspaper, and among your existing contacts. Hopefully, you’ll attract not only members that you already know, but new connections, too. Getting close to these new contacts will be easy since you have a clear shared interest to bond over.

Strategy #3: Engineer “lucky” encounters. Ferrazzi argues that some of the most career-changing professional connections can be ones you weren’t planning on making: for instance, ones that grow from unexpectedly bumping into someone at an event, or being seated next to them on a plane. You may think that these kinds of encounters are impossible to engineer—after all, they’re based on being in the right place at the right time. However, Ferrazzi believes you can do a few things to increase the chances of these lucky events coming to pass:

  • Adopt an open mindset—see every person you come across as a potential new contact. Likewise, become comfortable with talking to strangers. You’ll only benefit from serendipity if you’re willing to approach people you don’t know.
  • Appear approachable at all times—whether you’re on the bus, in a café, or simply walking down the street. Smile at people and make eye contact with them. You’ll never make unexpected connections if you glare at every stranger you come across.
  • Hang around places that are popular with the kind of people you want to network with—for instance, the coworking space used by all of the local entrepreneurs, or the coffee shop that tech gurus always go to on their breaks. By frequenting these people’s “habitats,” you increase your chances of serendipitously bumping into them.
Use These Networking Strategies to Never Eat Alone

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  • How to build and maintain a successful professional network
  • The 4 key strategies to building up a network
  • Why you have to put in work to keep your network relationships strong

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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