Networking: scary, intimidating, tricky and even tedious. These are common words that are often associated with networking events. Perhaps you need a strategy to navigate these schmoozy meet-ups. Because once you cut through all the niceties networking events are an opportunity to meet people who could potentially help you and your business.
You could meet someone who could become a new client or even a generous ‘Angel’, who might know a thing or two about your industry. So wouldn’t it be a good idea to go into one of these do’s with a plan in mind? Here are some tips to make your networking productive and successful.
Be yourself – Don’t attempt to be anything other than what you are. After all, you are selling yourself so why should you pretend to be anything else.
Be Confident – You should be going to an event confident in yourself and what you do. If you are nervous take some deep breaths. People will detect tension so try to remain calm.
Be at the bar – Everyone loves a drink and networking events are no exception. Start chatting with someone in the queue and then buy them a beer for good measure. This is sure to get the conversation flowing nicely and will calm down any initial nerves.
Be Clear – It’s crucial to have clarity in what you do and its overall purpose. With this in mind, you should prepare a 30-second elevator pitch that sums up your business and what you want it to achieve. Why not practise in the mirror beforehand?
Be mindful of your intentions – You should never go to a networking event with a blank canvas. You need to be clear with people in terms of what you’re currently looking to do. Maybe you need investment? Or perhaps you are after new leads for business development purposes? That doesn’t mean that you will be guaranteed to meet someone that night who will solve your problems – but you could be put in touch with somebody who might.
Be considerate – As much as you may think this event is all about you it simply isn’t. Which is why it’s important to listen to people you are conversing with at an event. They will appreciate it if you are showing an interest, and they may show interest in return.
Be keen – but not too keen – It’s always a must to come to a networking event with business cards and you should use them when you need to. But don’t spam the entire room with your cards and invade people’s personal space. You don’t want to be one of those people. Hand out cards when appropriate and not like confetti at a wedding.
Be genuine – Rather than focussing on speaking to as many people as possible, you should instead concentrate on engaging in quality conversations. If all you’re looking to do is act like a ‘flirt’ then you might miss opportunities that are right in front of you.
Be engaging – This may take a bit of time, but if a conversation is going well there is nothing wrong with asking meaningful questions. Assuming that you have been listening, you should get a good idea of what to ask. Try and understand that person and what makes them tick. This will give you a good idea if there is an opportunity to be had.
Be about more than business – There are plenty of interesting things to talk about apart from work. For example, has this person watched the latest episode of Game of Thrones? Do they support a football team? And do they think Brexit is one big muddle? It’s important to get to know people on a human level if you want to be gaining contacts and creating relationships
Be ready to close – You’ve just had a great chat, and you tell your new pal that you will be emailing them later with more specifics on your business plan. Make a note of this and do what you say you are going to do. Nothing says bad first impression more than someone who can’t communicate and follow up quickly.