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Mastering the art of networking: the playbook approach

This article is part of a WIL experience from the Faculty of Business and Law. Led by Professor-of-Practice Pete Williams.  

Networking is an indispensable skill in the professional world, pivotal for unlocking opportunities and fostering career growth.  

Taken from a video originally shared to Deakin University students attending the NBA Summer League’s Business of Basketball program, this Triangle Approach to networking is a testament to the power of strategic relationship building.  

By focusing on preparation, engagement, and follow-up, this approach not only facilitates the making of connections but ensures the cultivation of meaningful, enduring relationships. 

Preseason

Insightful Research: Begin with in-depth research on the event, including the attendees, keynote speakers, and topics of discussion. Tools like LinkedIn, event newsletters, and official apps can offer a wealth of information. Engaging with content shared by these individuals or entities can serve as an icebreaker and signal your genuine interest. 

Goal Setting: Clearly defined goals guide your networking strategy. Whether aiming to gain insights into a specific industry, seeking mentorship, or sharing your expertise, knowing what you want to achieve ensures purposeful interactions. 

Elevator Pitch: Prepare a concise, compelling introduction for yourself. This pitch should articulate who you are, what you do, and what you’re looking for. A well-crafted pitch can spark interest and open the door to deeper conversations. 

Regular season

Three Types of Notes: Your notebook is your best friend at any event. First, capture key insights and learning moments that can enhance your knowledge. Second, jot down life lessons or advice that resonate on a personal level. Finally, document personal details about the individuals you meet; these notes are invaluable for personalized follow-up. 

Engagement Beyond the Spotlight: While connecting with headline speakers and industry leaders is beneficial, don’t overlook the person “to the left.” These individuals, whether they are assistants, colleagues, or even fellow attendees, often hold untapped insights and opportunities. Engaging with them can diversify and deepen your network in unexpected ways. 

Postseason

Timely Connections: Reach out to new contacts within 24 to 48 hours post-event. Reference specific discussions you had to remind them of your interaction and reinforce the connection. This timely follow-up demonstrates your interest and commitment to nurturing the relationship. 

Engagement and Sharing: Utilize social media platforms to share key takeaways and express gratitude for insights gained, tagging individuals and organizations involved. This not only strengthens your connections but also amplifies your professional voice within your network. 

Offer Value: Networking is a two-way street. Think about how you can offer value to your new connections. Whether it’s sharing a relevant article, offering assistance with a project, or introducing them to another professional in your network, small gestures can make a big impact.

Offseason learnings

The triangle approach to networking is a holistic strategy that emphasizes the importance of each phase in the networking process. From diligent preparation and intentional engagement to thoughtful follow-up, this approach ensures that every interaction has the potential to develop into a meaningful professional relationship.

It underscores the fact that successful networking is about more than just expanding your contact list; it’s about cultivating a supportive, dynamic professional community. As you apply these principles, remember that the true art of networking lies in genuine engagement and the ongoing exchange of value.

Whether you’re just starting your career or looking to expand your professional horizons, the triangle approach offers a structured path to networking success, proving invaluable across all stages of your professional journey. 

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