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Networking: A Golden Opportunity to Build Your Personal Brand

There are nearly endless channels for building and communicating your personal brand, and we have talked about many of them in this space. From your website to your social media presence, from your style of dress to the interviews you give on TV, there is no shortage of opportunities to build your brand while connecting with your audience. However, today we are going to examine another channel that is often overlooked: networking.

Most business owners recognize the importance of networking—it’s a great way to meet other professionals, identify opportunities for collaboration, and even bring in new clients. Business owners often approach these events with specific goals—such as passing out a large number of business cards, identifying new prospects, or gathering more information regarding a specific industry. Very rarely is “build my personal brand” a priority—and as a result, the opportunity is wasted.

Below are five ways in which you can effectively build your personal brand while networking:

1) Start by listening, not talking. Many networking events primarily consist of individuals looking to promote themselves. But in most cases, the best way to build a connection with a potential client is to listen first. Display an interest in the individual and in their business. Ask questions. They’ll be impressed that you took the time to listen—and much more likely to hear you out when you do begin to talk about yourself.

2) Dress the part. It goes without saying that you need to dress in a manner which reflects the brand you are seeking to build. Your choice of clothing plays a significant factor in communicating your personal brand—so choose accordingly.

3) Make a strong first impression. The first impression you create while networking goes a long way. Not that you have never heard this before, but a little review can’t hurt: offer a strong handshake, speak clearly, and project confidence. You’re great at what you do, and you’re working to brand yourself as an expert in your field. Carry yourself accordingly!

4) Focus on your points of differentiation. What makes you different from others in your industry? There are plenty of real estate agents out there, for instance, but what makes you different from all the rest? Do you have an advanced degree? An exceptional level of experience? A unique business model? Stay away from generic information and try to focus conversation on your points of differentiation as much as possible.

5) Tell stories. Sharing stories (work related, of course) has a number of benefits. It gives your audience a tangible idea of who you are and what you do. It demonstrates your experience and expertise. And storytelling holds the attention of your conversation partner much more effectively than the typical “this is what I do” spiel. Take some time right now to come up with stories that demonstrate your expertise—and use them when the opportunity arises!

Networking is a valuable exercise for a variety of reasons—and branding is one of them. The next time you attend a networking event, make building your personal brand a priority!

If you’d like to learn more, check out "Building the Ultimate Network", a book I co-authored with Dr. Ivan Misner. Dr. Misner is the founder of BNI, the largest business networking organization in the world.