Do you want to make your business networking more effective?
Having been to many networking events over the years, I can attest to the fact (as I am sure many can) that networking can sometimes be an awkward, uncomfortable and clunky task for any business professional. However, I have learned over time that you can build great business relationships if you put yourself in the right mindset, set proper goals and be engaged in the opportunity.
Here are 11 tips to keep in mind at your next networking event:
Be Yourself – In order to build a working relationship, it is important to build trust. Being genuine in your conversations and showing sincerity can go a long way.
Know Your Goal – Have a game plan. Look at the registration list in advance (if one is available), or be sure to check the website for sponsors to figure out in advance if there may be people you would want to connect with. Targeting specific contacts, or titles can help you get the most out of your networking time.
The Ed Principle – Don’t try to be interestING by trying hard to come up with quips or anecdotes, be InterestED in what the other person is saying. If you are open to listening to the other person and asking follow-up questions like “tell me a little more about…” you can be remembered as a great conversationalist with very little effort on your end. This helps take the pressure off of you, helps you learn more about your contact, and helps them remember you as being a great listener.
Get Involved – Getting involved in an organization and joining committees or board positions can help you develop very strong relationships and bring great dividends. By doing so, you will gain greater visibility and can be seen as a resource to others, which allows you to…
Give a Little Bit – Remember that networking is a two-way street. Help others by introducing them to your connections, offering suggestions, or assisting them when needed. By offering your time to people, they will remember the favor and introduce you to others as a powerful resource.
Volunteer – Many organizations have fundraisers, charity events, etc. Of course it is always nice to help others in need, but an added benefit of donating your time or resources to charities or volunteer initiatives can be the team-building time with others who are doing the same thing. Some of the strongest business relationships are fostered by activities that are far outside of the business environment.
Find a Buddy – Going it alone in a new organization can be a tough task, especially in one that has many long-standing relationships. Taking a friend or colleague can help break the ice and make networking easier, as you can both feed off of each conversation in a group of new people. One helpful strategy for this: bring up topics, stories, or business insights that are related to your “buddy” and vice versa. This will allow each of you to highlight your strengths without talking about yourself.
Polish Your Pitch – This is a no-brainer. Know your 30 second elevator pitch well and bring your “A Game” to all networking events.
Ask for Introductions – It’s okay to be the newbie! Go to the chapter admin, communications director, event planner, or the person that invited you to the event (typically listed on your registration confirmation) and ask them for introductions to who they think may be a good business fit. Their goal for these events are to connect people and keep you coming back, so be sure to use them as a resource.
Wrap It Up – If a conversation starts heading into uncomfortable topics, be sure to be respectful by politely excusing yourself to get a drink, food, use the bathroom, catch up with someone else, or make a phone call.
Thank You's and Follow Up's Go a Long Way – What good is gaining a contact if you don’t keep in touch? After the event, make sure that you connect with them on Linkedin (if appropriate) and send a quick email as a “Nice to meet you”, or a follow-up on a conversation / resource you promised them. Doing this within a 24 hour window after the event will keep you top of mind and create a good base for future conversations and relationship development.
Want more networking tips? Check out this article too.
Article written by Jonathan Little, IMS National Account Manager