Eight Tricks to Networking With Confidence

What tips do you have for networking with people in an industry that you're unfamiliar with?

-- Roger, Scranton, Pa.

1. Ask questions.

It's conversation 101 that asking questions puts you in charge of guiding the conversation, and this is especially important when dealing with folks from an unfamiliar industry. Ask them questions about what they do, how they do it, and anything you think of that you're genuinely interested in. People like to talk about their work, so this is a great way to start a friendship.

-- Colin Wright, Exile Lifestyle

2. Research the industry's hot topics.

Get up to speed on some of the hot topics within an industry and use these to initiate compelling conversations with people in the industry. You can use this as a foot in the door to ask further questions about key areas and quickly suss out the key players and where they stand on the pertinent issues within that industry.

-- Lea Woodward, Kinetiva

3. Know thy purpose.

I would begin by being clear on why you are networking with the person. Are you looking to move into the industry? Do you need the assistance of the person you are networking with? Understanding someone's challenges, what keeps them up at night, as well as what they aspire to be and do are great ways to connect with folks from any industry.

-- Ambassador Bruny, AmbassadorBruny.com

4. Request an informational interview.

Send a concise email to a contact you would like to get to know in a new industry, asking for 15 minutes of his time, and telling him you have five specific questions you would like to ask him. Make yourself available whenever it is convenient to him, and then prepare your questions to make sure you get the information you are seeking. Most people will honor the request and even talk longer.

-- Vanessa Nornberg, Metal Mafia

5. Set a lunch date.

Find the most successful person in that industry and ask if you can take them out to lunch. Tell them your story and how you admire them and they can become your best asset. Ask questions and sit back and be sure to listen because they will probably teach you more in that hour than you will ever learn again about that industry.

-- Louis Lautman, Young Entrepreneur Society

6. Look to give first.

When you move into a new industry, you bring your prior experience and contacts. At the end of each conversation, ask people what they most need right now. Then think through who you know who could help them or what resources you could recommend. Finally, follow up with that information. People will be blown away at your authenticity and follow through and will usually be happy to return the favor.

-- Elizabeth Saunders, Real Life E

7. Bring a networking 'wingman.'

For any networking event it can be helpful to have a networking "wingman." Together, you can naturally draw individuals into your conversation. This is particularly true if your networking wingman is knowledgeable about the industry you are unfamiliar with. If nothing else, the event will provide you with an opportunity to get to know your networking wingman better.

-- Doug Bend, The Law Office of Doug Bend

8. Give Twitter a workout.

Use FollowerWonk to search Twitter bios for industry related terms and start following these people immediately. Read their Tweets and links carefully and learn from their expertise. Use @Mentions to start conversations with them and ask any questions that you have.

-- Andrew Saladino, RTA Kitchen Cabinets

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