Networking is a key way to generate leads and get to know other business owners; particularly if you run a small business or are growing. Events vary in format and in the type of businesses they attract. However, there are some tricks that you should bear in mind, no matter what the event is, that will maximise the experience for you.
1. Be prepared by bringing a lot of business cards
Make sure you bring lots of business cards and that they are clean, up-to-date and easily accessible at the event, so there’s no awkward pause whilst you dig through your bag when someone asks you for it. When receiving a business card, show interest by taking a moment to read it before putting it away.
Some people find it useful to write details about the contact on their card, such as the name of the event, the date and reminders to include in your follow-up.
2. Be able to articulate what you do, why, for whom and what makes it special… quickly!
At networking events, you’ll be given the opportunity to talk about your business for a brief amount of time. It’s important that you’re able to talk about your business in a clear and concise way – this will help you grab the attention of the people on your table and make them want to know more about you and your company. It’s important to be able to do this at any kind of networking event as it’s a great ice-breaker and will help you give a meaningful impression of what you do.
3. Introduce yourself confidently
We all know the importance of first impressions so to ensure you make a good one. When meeting someone for the first time, say your name and your company loudly and clearly; there can be lots of background noise at networking events so make sure they can hear you. Convey confidence by making eye contact, smile and make your body language open and friendly.
4. Don’t spend the event catching up with friends
You may already know a number of people at the event and it’s important to say hello and continue to build those connections. However, networking is also about expanding your network so make the effort to make new connections.
5. Don’t sell
Whilst it’s important to be able to articulate what you do in a short ‘elevator pitch’, it’s also important not to ram your company down someone’s throat. You’ll have more chance of success by making genuine conversation, building rapport and showing interest in what the other person has to say. You’re trying to develop a relationship with someone so be generous, not self-serving.
6. ‘Work’ the event
After you’ve spent around 5 – 10 minutes talking to someone, let them move on so you can both meet someone new. Be mindful of other people’s time as everyone’s there to network. An easy way to close a conversation gracefully is to say, “It’s been nice talking to you.” or “Good to meet you, I look forward to talking with you again.”
Don’t promise to contact them if you don’t intend to. This would be a good time to exchange business cards if you have agreed to follow-up with them.
7. Don’t forget to follow-up!
It’s important to follow-up your connections, especially if you said you would! If you get a list of attendees, don’t blanket email them but build on the connections you did make. Keep in touch by sending them a personal email or calling and connecting with them on LinkedIn, no longer than a week after the event.
If you said you would send them more information about your company make sure to do that. If there’s something you think would be useful to them, like an introduction to another contact or a link to valuable information, it will show you are thinking of their needs and they will be more likely to value the connection.
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