Some people are born naturals when it comes to networking. For others it’s a chore fraught with the constant risk of making a social faux pas like forgetting someone’s name (or worse still forgetting your own – it can happen under pressure). Meeting someone for the first time at a conference or networking event is always a bit awkward, and that’s when I usually turn to the Internet for help as there are plenty of free tools you can use to ease networking fatigue. I think most people have trouble remembering faces when they meet a lot of them, so it’s useful to have some kind of contact management system setup right from the start.
Camcard is a great way to keep all your contacts in order and the basic app is free on all major smartphones. Instead of having stacks of business cards to shuffle through you just scan a card with your smartphone camera and all the details are automatically stored in your address book in seconds.
Another good option for simple sharing is Bu.mp. Free on iPhone and Android it lets you physically bump handsets with other users to instantly share your contact details and other files via Bluetooth. With over 125 million downloads so far the app has been so successful it was announced recently that the company has been snapped up by Google so could be one to watch for future developments & Google apps integration.
With Google’s Gmail being such a widely used service there are oodles of great browser add-ons that give you a more personalised and streamlined email experience. Add-ons are quick and easy to install as they just make a tweak to an existing programme – in the case of Rapportive that’s your online email interface when viewed in Firefox or Chrome browsers. This plugin joins up all the dots by letting you see your Gmail contacts’ social connections, pulling up a photo, location and job description beside every incoming message, so you always know exactly who you are dealing with.
Sunrise IM is another useful tool if you have trouble remembering who’s who. Sign up to connect with Facebook, multiple Google accounts and Linked In and it will produce a daily digest of everything you need to know about the day ahead pulled from all your key communications streams. If you have a meeting with a Linked In contact you will also receive a summary of their details together with their profile photograph. You will never be better prepared for a business meeting, just try not to know so much that it looks creepy.
With social media being so ubiquitous it’s possible you’re already connected to someone who can help with your business ambitions but you don’t even know it. GetLunched.com is a networking site that lets you browse your LinkedIn contacts and registered users willing to be contacted to see if anyone local has the skills you need to progress your idea. If you see someone of interest you can offer to buy them lunch for a meeting and a chat. The website will make the approach for you and will even help find a discounted restaurant or suitable venue close by, though you’re not obligated to choose their suggestions. Now hopefully that accountant you vaguely know through LinkedIn can be persuaded to give you advice on setting up your company for the cost of a £30 lunch? You might even make a new friend and ally too.