The word networking can make hands sweat, mouths go dry and muscles become tense. Attending a networking event may be your worst nightmare but in the world of business, it could play an essential part of building your business.
Making small social chat raises awareness of your business and opens doors to new opportunities. Effective networking is an art which comes natural to some but is a skill that can be developed over time by others. We’re going to drop one of the biggest clichés around and say “practice makes perfect” because it really does!
We’ve collated some handy tips to help you turn into a networking master!
Before attending the event, think of a few “ice breaker” questions to ask. The start of a conversation with a stranger can be slightly awkward; preparing a bank of questions will help you deal with the awkwardness and make that first move.
Arriving early will allow you to meet people before the hustle and bustle. It will be a calmer atmosphere and people wouldn’t have had time to form groups, making it easier for you to make the initial contact and find a conversational partner.
Have your one liner ready and don’t sell too much!
It’s important to remember the true meaning of networking, to build relationships. When introducing yourself, keep it precise. Practice how to summarise who you are and what your business does in one sentence, also known as the one liner.
“Hi my names Dave, I run a small PR agency, helping businesses tell their story”
Networking isn’t about selling, of course talk about your business but slot your business chat between general social chit chat.
Show an Interest
When you’ve introduced yourself, show an interest in the person by asking questions about themselves and their business. Listen carefully and give them your full attention while trying to find a way of helping them. Even if it’s just introducing them to one of your contacts, they’ll appreciate the gesture and are more likely to return the favour.
Remember your business cards! If you haven’t got yourself one yet, read our 3 Reasons you need a Business Card post. Not only do they make you and your business look more professional but they are also a convenient way of passing on your contact details.
Don’t stick to one person
If you’re not a naturally confident person, it’s very easy to stay with the same person at a networking event and avoid working the room. We’re not saying you should speak to every single person at the event but try to network and make connections with a handful of people.
So you’ve made new contacts, what next? Follow them up of course! You’ve done all the hard work of making the contact, now you need to maintain it. Either drop them an email, call, tweet or invite them on LinkedIn and if you can remember something significant from your conversation at the networking, try and mention it in your message.
Networking really is a skill which can be developed over time with practice and perseverance. Attend your first networking event with a positive attitude, a smile and a target of how many connections you’d like to make. Review how you thought your first event went and be sure to follow up any connections made which are going to prove useful to you and your business.
Have you got any networking tips of your own? Maybe you have a different view on networking? Drop us a comment and let us know!