How to Use Technology to Transform Yourself Into a Master Networker

Social listening tools can be a lifesaver

Technology can’t help you with your people skills, but it can give you a head start.
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Ask the general public and they’ll probably confirm that networking sucks. It’s awkward striking up a conversation with a room full of strangers and even if you can worm your way into a conversation, it feels a bit smarmy talking to someone in order to “get” something in return. Going to a networking event without a wingman? May as well go home, get in your pajamas, order a pizza and convince yourself that being a hermit isn’t so bad.

Almost all of us have felt that way at some time or another. But we press on because we have been around the block enough times to understand that knowing the right people can skyrocket our professional endeavors. So we seek to get better at working the power lunches, the industry summits and the after work mixers.

Well, luckily for us, we live in the age of technology, which is not only helpful because you can take solace in the warm light of your iPhone when you’re standing all alone with your cheese plate, but because you can leverage tech to help you become a master networker and set yourself up for success before you even get there.

Here’s how:

Have a strategy

If you go to a summit without a strategy, it’ll likely end up being a wash. You need to determine who you want to meet, what you want to achieve, and even set up meetings with key people before the event occurs.

“One of the best tools we came across and experienced firsthand so far was at Slush (2018),” said Normunds Kvilis, co-founder and CEO of DigiPulse. “One of their tools’ most useful options was a chance to schedule meetings weeks before the actual event, in specific areas to negotiate potential partnerships. With around 20,000 attendees, we couldn’t imagine getting any networking done without Slush’s app.”

Another great networking app for scheduling meetups in advance is GripApp. Said Kvilis, “We found Grip to be simply amazing – it works similar to Tinder, powered by artificial intelligence. Thanks to Grip, we were able to schedule and negotiate significantly more meetings than by using any other tool or on our own.”

Research relentlessly

The line between cool and creepy is a fine one. On the one hand, you want to be well-informed about the people you are trying to meet; on the other hand, you don’t want to look like a stalker. The best course of action? Be well informed, but don’t give away what you know.

You can certainly research your targets on LinkedIn. Most people have profiles and if you have LinkedIn Pro, you can send them an InMail to connect.

“An email or text message can’t replace a handshake over a cup of coffee,” said Don Martelli, vice president of Schneider Associates. “However, technology can help you identify new relationships you want to forge before an event. I’m using LinkedIn Sales Navigator to identify key contacts that are driving economic growth in our area.”

Lisa Bennett, vp of marketing at Kaltura agreed that online research prior to an event is crucial. “We use a mix of digital channels and video technology to network. A lot of social media, primarily leveraging LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter,” she said. “We also connect via channels such as Whatsapp, Skype and good old email. And of course, increasingly we are leveraging video through the various digital channels to communicate and relay messages across the web.”

If you’re continuously approaching some of the big fish, you might try using social listening tools as well, to get the most up to date information about what’s going on with their companies. Brandwatch, for example, allows you to generate reports on all press and social media mentions a company has had in a certain space of time. This information can be used as strong conversation starters.

What if you’re throwing a networking party?

If you’re the one throwing the event, good for you for investing in your network so heavily. Here’s the thing – your goal is to keep people having a good time, which means keeping them in the room. According to Ben Hindman at Splash, the best way to do that is to (surprise, surprise) empower them to network better.