Here are our 10 tips to get the most from Networking. Remember networking isn’t a competition. Relax and enjoy it.
1. Don’t arrive late
2. Take your business cards
3. Smile and have a great handshake
4. Share your passion
5. Have your 40/60 seconds ready
6. Listen. Don’t dominate the conversation
7. Ask easy questions
8. Develop a broad network
9. Log your contacts
10. Reach out. Follow up
Networking is a great opportunity
Networking is a great way of making contact and creating opportunities for you and your business. The support, ideas and inspiration networking gives will be invaluable.
Broadening your network exposes you to people who are more likely to turn to you for a service than just search on Google. Establishing a rapport and a relationship with someone face-to-face goes a long way in business. You need to start building those relationships.
You need to approach networking with the mindset of how you can help, what you can offer and not what can I get out of this. Those people are quickly identified and tend not to be very successful. Successful networkers tend to be in it for the long haul. A referral from someone can come weeks, months or even years down the line – but they will come if you stick at it. The more you give, the more you get in networking.
Don’t arrive late
Arriving late doesn’t make a great impression to everyone in the room – especially if it is the first time you have attended the meeting. Rushing in all hot and sweaty is not a good look. Rushing to set up your banner stand, put out your literature and find your place at the table is not the way you want to be remembered.
Take your business cards
Don’t come along to a networking meeting without them. It is unforgivable to not have a card to exchange with people you meet. It is the most basic rule. They are not expensive. Make sure you have plenty – and not dog-eared grubby ones that have been in your wallet for months.
Smile and have a great handshake
A smile makes you approachable and friendly. Your handshake is memorable so make sure it is a good one. An assured handshake and looking someone in the eye is always effective.
Share your passion
Why do you do what you do? What made you choose this profession? People will want to know and will assess your credibility in just a few seconds. Make sure that you convey all that passion. Try and ensure that you would get a referral from someone in the room for your services.
Have your 40/60 seconds ready
It’s very British to not want to blow your own trumpet – but that’s what you have come here to do. Prepare a concise ‘elevator pitch’ that covers the salient points. It reinforces your credibility and is memorable. If you are funny, loud and energetic that’s great but not everyone is. Be yourself, know what you are going to say, deliver it well and you will have achieved your goal. You are growing your network and increasing opportunities.
Listen. Don’t dominate the conversation
We’ve all had this happen to us at a networking event. Someone steps up and totally dominates the conversation. It’s all me, me, me and it is usually pretty boring. People switch off and don’t engage with them. Don’t be one of those people.
Ask easy questions
This is my one top tip for anyone networking. Networking is part-business, part-social . Long detailed questions with complex variables are not a good idea. These are best left for a follow-up meeting at a later date (or your one-to-one meetings). People appreciate being asked something they can answer quite easily. It puts them at ease and you start to establish a rapport and a trust. This one thing will win you a lot of friends at networking events – especially among the nervous networkers.
Develop a broad network
Don’t just target one sub-set in networking groups. Develop a broad range of contacts and this will help you in the long-term. We have seen networkers who are only interested in a particular type of attendee eg. a printer targeting graphic designers. You will get more opportunities from a diverse network of contacts.
Log your contacts
Have a spreadsheet ready so you can log the cards you collect or put them into your email address book with notes. If you have a CRM log any contacts in there with any notes like where you first met. All this will be invaluable. You can use this information to connect to your network and create opportunities.
Reach out. Follow up
If you have met someone and said you’d follow up then make sure you do it. Don’t fall at the first hurdle and hurt your credibility. A quick email saying that it was lovely to meet them and you enjoyed talking to them is easy to write and send. Make people feel valued. Show you have listened to them. Prove you are genuinely interested in them then networking will work for you.
Remember that networking isn’t a competition. It is about building real relationships, maintaining them – and above all, giving as much as you take. Do that and you will gain a lot from networking both personally and professionally.
Peter Lowe is a former member of 4N Networking and BNI and has attended meetings across the Midlands representing Blackberry Design.