Many people tell me, “You make it look so easy.” My response back is, “networking” is not always easy; however, it should be worthwhile. I have found over the 20-plus years I have been interacting in the business to business social scene that very little has changed, given the prevalent changes in technology and the social media surge. The formula to successful networking is to focus on the outcomes you wish to accomplish.
Be prepared. Here are some tips:
- Bring your smile; it will increase your face value.
- Know your business; know your brand. Focus on the benefits of your product/service rather than the features.
- Speak with conviction and confidence.
- Listen, Listen, Listen – genuinely engage in conversation.
- Ask questions relevant to conversation.
- Make eye contact with the person you are speaking with (don’t be looking around the room to see who else is there).
- Bring your end game. Know what is it that you want to accomplish from attending the networking opportunity.
In addition to these tips, here are things you should always practice when preparing for networking:
Remain positive. The attendance and audience size are a consideration; smaller numbers can render greater outcomes. Choose networking events you know will be advantageous for the audience (clients) you are seeking. Research the event; check history, sponsors/partners and search for feedback from past events the organization has hosted.
Dress for success. Ensure you present yourself in a professional, well-dressed manner. Your name badge should always be on your right upper chest for clear visual during handshake and other exchanges. Have a place to store collected business cards, keeping your hands free to meet and greet people. Have your business cards handy, and bring plenty with you.
Be aware of your non-verbal communication and the message you might send with wandering eyes and looking around the room while trying to communicate. Chewing gum, tobacco and smoking are distractions in any networking environment. Be respectful of others. Breath mints are a suggested sidekick.
Use technology only as a means to exchange ideas or show people your website or other business-related content. No texting, talking on your phone, or communicating with non-attendees during the event. If you need to make a call or text, step outside.
Many times, I will circle back to an individual before leaving to gather further information or ask a few more questions, if necessary. After the event, take notes for appropriate follow-up. Make a quick assessment of your brief meeting with the person; ascertain the benefits of furthering a conversation or another meeting with them. What can they learn from you? What can you learn from them? This will be good information when following up via email to set an appointment. Do not rely solely on social media to relationship-build with your new contacts. Send an email to make initial contact, then pick up the phone and set an appointment with them.
More information at asba.com/events.
Julie Armstrong is community rngagement & events manager of ASBA