There are few things that are more daunting than walking into a room full of strangers… alone. And yet, that is exactly what most of us do when we attend networking events for our business. It is simply one of those things that goes hand in hand with running a successful business. It’s not an easy thing to make yourself do, but the results can be well worth the effort over time.
Here are 7 tips to make networking easier:
1. Arrive early – do not be late. It’s probably not what you want to do, but showing up early at a networking event is a much better strategy than getting there on the later side. First of all, you’ll notice that it’s calmer and quieter, making it easier to actually have a conversation with someone. Secondly, it’s often easier to find other people who don’t have conversation partners yet as groups have not yet settled in, making it much easier to strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know yet.
2. Ask easy questions and have your conversation starters ready: “May I join you” or “What brings you to this event?” are perfectly acceptable ways to approach others since you are all there to meet other business people. Listen closely to their replies, and keep the interruptions to a minimum, but be sure to ask questions as they wind down their introduction. People tend to remember the people that actually listened to them, and you will have more to discuss when you follow up later.
3. Leave the sales pitch at home. Always be ready with your 30 second description of your business or service but remember that this is about meeting new people and expanding your sphere of influence person by person. Unless the format is totally focused on generating leads for the attendees, most business networking events are fun, light and informal, so you don’t want to pitch the anyone 30 seconds after you shake hands. The idea is to get the conversation started. People are more apt to do business with – or partner with – people whose company they enjoy.
4. Put on your best smile. Had a bad day? Dreading the event? Too bad – leave the negative vibes at the office. There’s a really good chance that you are not the only one there feeling the same way. Put aside the negativity and enjoy the evening. Relax, put a smile on your face and try to put one on other faces, too. People like to do business with people they like.
6. Don’t hog the conversation. The best networkers (think of those you’ve met) know how to make others feel special. Don’t talk AT people – engage them in a conversation. Look them in the eyes, listen closely, and don’t scan the room for the next ‘target’ while they are speaking. Simply nodding your head is not engaging the other person. Listen to what they are saying and ask questions that might enable you to steer the conversation in the direction you want it to go, such as finding the other person’s pain points in business that you might be able to resolve or if there may be a potential joint venture between the two of you. Whether the person is a possible client or not – always remember that referrals are the bread and butter of most companies.
7. Follow up with style. It’s a good idea to follow up with 72 hours of an event, while the details are fresh in everyone’s mind. If possible, reference something you discussed, send along any information that you promised and if appropriate, schedule a call or an in-person meeting, either at their office or for coffee. Even if the person is not a potential client, there may still be business opportunities via other connections and resources that you can share with each other. Sometimes, the best opportunities come from business owners that become friends, rather than clients.
Never overlook the power of any type of networking opportunity! It brings people together for mutual benefit who may never meet otherwise, like these guys:
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