If you’re more introvert than extrovert, that may sound like an insane idea. Your main goal is to build valuable connections after all. And the best way to grow your business is to attend networking events which expose you to the right people.
Networking is an art. And the more you practice, the better you get at it. With that in mind, here are our top networking tips fielded from our own networking experiences, discussions with other businesses and a search around the web:
- Decide your goals and prepare a list of objectives – Why are you going? What do you want to gain from this event? Use flashcards to make a list of your goals for the event and tick them off as you go along. Make sure you’ve ticked them all off by the end of the event.
- Manage your expectations – What do you think you’re going to find at the event? Prepare yourself for the type of people you will find and if you have a list of attendees, use it to research and prioritize who to speak to.
- Prepare your business cards – Never leave home without them. Your business card will go a long way in reminding people who you are after you’ve left. And nice business cards will speak for themselves. But don’t just hand them out to absolutely everyone. The business cards should only come out when there’s an exchange of some sort and a memorable connection has already been established.
- Have your elevator pitch prepared – People want to know what you do as a person. Not your company. What can you offer potential connections and how you do it? Be concise and limit yourself to 30-60 seconds. But most of all, practice.
- Plan you networking like is a project – Business networking is just like any other project, you need to research and manage it. Before it manages you. Business Balls has a great template for structuring your networking here: Business Balls
- Research the type of people attending – Make sure the type of people attending are people you want to network with but keep an open mind if your market is diverse. People attend networking events to listen, learn and develop valuable business connections. Even your closest competitors might be able to offer you advice.
- Check what the organizer says the event is for – Who are the organizers? What area do they work in? What is the purpose of the event in itself?
- Check the plan for the event – Will you be booked solid with lectures and tutorials and only get 15 minutes to talk to people? If that’s why you’re going to that networking event, great. But if you actually want to communicate with people, share ideas and build connections? You’ll be better off focusing your time on events that maximize your face to face networking time. Sharing ideas and meeting new people is a must in any industry.
- Consider why that event will benefit you – consider why you’re attending and what you hope to gain from the event. Knowing will guide you through the event but hosts and other businesses will ask and having an answer ready can only help you.
- Don’t “work” the room, as Forbes says – Don’t just rush through the crowd, trying to meet as many people as possible. You won’t make memorable impressions that way.
- Practice empathetic listening – put yourself in someone else’s shoes and listen, learn from their responses. Remember that you’re networking to build connections, learn and give back. The easiest way to do that is to take a genuine interest in the things people have to say. You’d want someone else to listen while you speak.
- Make an effort to speak to people – No matter how nervous or lost you may feel, make an effort. If no one greets you at the door, use your initiative and ask someone for information or help. Don’t retreat and don’t look at your phone. The moment you unlock your phone is the moment you disconnect.
- Take notes – Note down your impressions and what a particular person showed an interest in as soon as you can. Write notes on the back of their business cards to remind you when you met and what you talked about. It’ll all be handy when you follow up with them.
- Follow up the next day – Networking is pointless if you don’t follow up. In fact, it’s considered polite to follow up at least the day after. If you don’t the other person will just assume you weren’t really interested.
Business Balls – Business Networking
Entrepreneur – 7 Tips for Networking
Forum of Private Business – Top Networking Tips for Small Businesses
Psychology Today – 11 Ways Active Listening Can Help Your Relationships