Networking – love it or loathe it - can be a very effective tool to drive business development and meet other like-minded business people.
But there is a right way and wrong way to approach networking events.
They come in a variety of formats: breakfast seminars, morning tea, casual meet ups, lunch seminars, sun-downers and after work drinks.
Events may be industry based (IT professionals; social media managers) or they may be regional/local (local business groups; state or town-based chamber of commerce).
I have attended so many (…sooo many..) networking events over the years and I can tell you, no matter the type of event and the demographic attending, there are some simple “rules” that can help you go from “please go away” to “let’s meet up for coffee and discuss how we can help each other”.
Shove your business card into my face or hand as your introduction
Talk constantly about yourself
If it is a lunch or evening event with wine, don’t get drunk!
How to network like a pro
Networking can be lots of fun, a great marketing tool, and a wonderful way to get out of the office and meet other business owners. Let’s go through a few ways to “win” at networking.
Try to engage in 2-way conversation
Let’s both talk equally and it doesn’t need to all be about business. If you find some common ground (hobbies, football teams, kids etc) and the conversation flows, that’s great! It means you are building a connection and that’s how you stay in the persons mind.
Bring business cards
I honestly can’t believe some people turn up to networking events without their business cards! Your business cards are the best way to keep in contact with people you have met. Plus, it’s not a good look to fumble about in your bag and then laugh about how you didn’t think to bring your cards.
You knew you were coming here, right? Or did you end up here via a wrong turn?
Put some cards in your wallet, and your car, and your bag (hey, put some in your bra or down your socks!) and then you’ll never be without again.
Please follow up after the event. But not in a desperate ”I’m emailing you from my phone while watching you walk away” way.
A simple email saying “It was nice to meet you” is fine. Connect on LinkedIn and “like” and follow my Facebook page but please don’t start spamming me with 1001 emails in a month.
Follow up again
For leads that didn’t go anywhere, you can follow up again in a month or three. Just a quick email touching base or a comment on my Facebook post is a good way to keep the “touch point”.
Memories, light the corner of my mind…
If we meet two months later at another event and you completely forget that we have met before, and even engaged on the “socials” several times, my fragile little ego might not handle it. No, it probably will, but in all seriousness, it’s just not a good look. It makes you look unorganised (just like the lack of business cards).
Even if you can’t quite remember a person specifically, you can still approach them and say “hi, I think we’ve met before… how are you?”
So, I know I have been a bit harsh here. Don’t get discouraged. After many years of networking I have learned some of these tips the hard way! And I just want to help others learn to embrace networking.
As mentioned above, business networking can be a wonderful and beautiful business tool. I have met life-long friends via business networking. It is a lovely way to get out of the home office some days too! Just follow these tips and you’ll be one of the most popular people at your next event.
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