In the martial arts we have a general training concept which goes something like:

  1. Memorization: Learn the techniques
  2. Practice: Fine-tune and perfect your execution of the techniques
  3. Personalize: Adapt these techniques to fit your personal style
Networking is much the same. I’ve written a lot about specific techniques, from setting the goals before going to an event to asking for referrals in a way most likely to get results. At first all you can do is just learn about them. Your first attempt to use them is likely to feel awkward. As time goes on, though, and you keep using them, you will become more comfortable. Finally comes the time to personalize the techniques to fit your networking style.
So, what could you do to make your networking practice more “you”?
Communication: Do you prefer to send email, post a letter, or make a call? You should be proficient with all of them and any others you can think of (and use the mechanism that the recipient would prefer most), but if you have one that you like more than the others, take some time to make it stand out a little. What if you attached a different short inspirational quote to each of your email messages? Perhaps you could send your letters on personalized stationery. How would things change if every time you called your connections you asked them what the best thing that happened to them in the prior week was?
Introduction: Of course you are going to be making referrals. What if, instead of sending an email to both parties, you took an extra step and invited them both to coffee so you could make the introductions in person? Would that be a more powerful way of showing your style?
Appreciation: Thanking people who’ve helped you out is an area that just screams for personalization. Of course, you should send a gratitude note. What else could you do? Invite them out to their favorite restaurant? Send them a gift basket? Send them a new business book or even a fun novel that you recommended at some point?
These are only a few of the possibilities of the numerous techniques in networking which you could adapt so people will always know it’s “you”. The only caveat with this is be sure that no matter what you decide to do, the ultimate benefit is to the other person. Never let your style diminish the underlying substance.
With that in mind, though, now you can go out and really “wow” them with your networking style.