Networks are built around the exchange of information and networking is information intensive. To be both successful and sustaining, networks must constantly receive an influx of new and relevant information; information that network members can take, analyze and then parcel out to their network partners who then can make the best use of it.
To eﬃciently utilize the stream of networking information requires knowledge, expert knowledge. First, it requires the knowledge to understand the full implications of the information received and what it means. Second, it requires knowledge about the members of your network, their needs, capabilities, and capacities. With this knowledge, members who receive information can then analyze it, determine who can best use it, and allocate it to those network partners who can benefit from it.
So, to build and maintain a successful network, you must be an expert. The more knowledgeable you become, the more desirable you will be to potential network partners. Your pretty face, clever wit, and winning personality may initially get you noticed, but you will fade as fast as last month’s news if you don’t have the expertise that others desire.
By becoming an expert, you will make yourself more attractive to those who can give you the greatest help—the in-crowd, the movers and shakers, the decision-makers, and the power brokers. Those at the top, the people with influence, want to associate with the best. They want to do business and socialize with them, and so should you. The surest route for reaching the top is by becoming an expert in your field.
Your expertise is the exchange that you give back to your network partners in return for their help, it’s your ticket to the dance. Being an expert simply means that you know what you’re doing. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re the world’s most recognized authority, although you may be. It also doesn’t mean that you know absolutely everything about your field … no one does!
When you’re acknowledged to be an expert, people want to hear what you have to say. Invitations to participate in meetings, panel discussions, workshops, and conferences pour in. You will be asked to write about your expertise, enter your work in competitions and contribute your eﬀorts for charitable causes. These opportunities will give you great exposure, terrific PR, extend your influence and introduce you to community and industry leaders. In addition, you will be coveted as a speaker, teacher, and competition judge, which will introduce you to bright new talents, who will extend the demographic of your network to a younger generation.
You probably are an expert in more areas than you realize. If you operate a business, you’re probably an expert in your field. You’re also probably an expert in activities in which you spend lots of time at such as being a single mother, making ravioli, growing orchids, throwing pots, knitting sweaters, operating a home-based oﬃce, coaching a Pee Wee League team or skiing. In addition, you’re an expert in intangible areas including being well organized, fair-minded, eﬃcient, reliable, punctual, reasonable, wise, understanding, considerate, and courageous.
Expertise is always with you. If you were awakened in the middle of the night and cross-examined about your area of interest, despite being groggy, despite being extremely cross, you could snap oﬀ all the right answers right there on the spot. When networking opportunities arise, you possess the information, you have the expert knowledge that you can use, but you must be prepared to showcase it.
Be alert to opportunities to demonstrate your expertise and be prepared to capitalize on them. Don’t abruptly or inappropriately force your expertise on listeners, but be patient. Wait for appropriate openings when what you have to say will be relevant and further the conversation. Learn to bide your time and listen to what others are saying. Then, when and if opportunity knocks, move fast because it may not come again.
Jill Lublin is an international speaker on the topics of Radical Influence, Publicity, Networking, Kindness, and Referrals. She is the author of 4 Best Selling books including Get Noticed…Get Referrals (McGraw Hill) and co-author of Guerrilla Publicity and Networking Magic. Her latest book, Profit of Kindness went #1 in four categories. Jill is a master strategist on how to position your business for more profitability and more visibility in the marketplace. She is CEO of a strategic consulting firm and has over 25 years of experience working with over 100,000 people plus national and international media. Jill teaches a virtual Publicity Crash Course, and consults and speaks all over the world. She also helps authors to create book deals with major publishers and agents, as well as obtain foreign rights deals.
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