We’ve all been to a networking event where someone is handing out business cards as if their life depended on it, but that’s not the way to network.
Networking for business is about building the connections you have and deepening those relationships – either at successive events, through ongoing communication or by meeting for coffee afterwards. Of course you should give the people you meet your business card, but not until you actually connect to them.
Don’t be that person who congratulates themselves on ‘talking’ to everyone by the end of the event (where talking translates as introducing themselves and stuffing a card into everyone’s hand). Instead, congratulate yourself on making meaningful contact with a few people, or even just one person. That is far more valuable to you – and them.
I like to find out the story behind someone and/or their business, so I ask lots of questions. It’s amazing what you find out when you ask and listen to the reply. Even if that person isn’t someone you could do business with, they may become a mentor, a good contact to bounce ideas off, a friend, or they might be a good connection for someone you know.
Here are my tips for successful networking:
• Don’t fear the networking event, instead see it as an opportunity to talk to one person about their business. As you connect they will ask about your business as well so then you can successfully promote your brand. If you connect with more than one person – fantastic.
• If you’re really nervous, bring a friend for moral support. Make it your mission to introduce each other to at least one person – then you will leave having met two new contacts.
• Be prepared with your elevator speech or, even better, sharewords (see Robin Dickinson’s Radsmarts blog). Have a sentence or two prepared about your business before you go and make sure it is interesting enough to prompt people to ask questions – this gives you the invitation to talk more about your business. To give you an idea, my sharewords are “I generate amazing publicity”.
• Enjoy yourself. If people can see you’re having fun (instead of gnawing at your fingernails in the corner) they will want to talk to you.
• Follow up the contacts you make with a call, email, LinkedIn request, invitation to talk further over coffee or all of the above within 2-3 days of the event.
These points work for me when I’m networking, but I’d love to know what works for you too. Comment below with your networking tips.