Networking can be nerve wracking, but building a wealth of contacts is invaluable to your career and the business your company generates.
1. Be prepared
Fail to plan and you plan to fail. Simple. If you’re hosting the event, make sure you have all the necessary materials ready, such as name badges, business cards and brochures about your business. If you’re attending an external networking event, make sure you have something to hold all the business cards you collect. If you get flustered when talking to people, try to rehearse what you’ll say beforehand. Think about how you present yourself and your skills on LinkedIn and then consider that networking is the real life equivalent. Your delivery should be as polished and professional as your online version.
Think about how you present yourself and your skills on LinkedIn. Your delivery should be as polished and professional as your online version.
2. Set yourself a target
A networking event is not a social gathering – you are there to achieve something. Set yourself a target, such as the number of people you want to talk to or be introduced to. If the number is 10 or 15 people, make sure you leave with 10 or 15 business cards.
3. Don’t have a set agenda
Remember: networking is about developing relationships – so don’t try to close a deal. You’re not there to do business, you’re there to meet valuable contacts. Your only agenda should be a set number of people to talk to and your objective is to get their business cards and potentially do business with them in the future. So avoid any sales pitches or business propositions.
4. Be a good guest
If you’re attending a networking event it is important to be a good guest. Make sure you are not complacent and avoid sitting in the corner by yourself – otherwise nobody will talk to you. If you don’t make the effort to work the room you’ll miss out on opportunities. Be friendly and open when you speak to people, and if you see someone sitting alone, go and say hello.
5. Talk and listen
You’ve got to talk to people – but you’ve also got to listen to what the other person is saying. Otherwise you won’t know whether that person is the right person for you to be talking to and connecting with. Ask yourself: “do I really need this person’s business card or does he or she have nothing to do with my objective?” Listen and you will learn.
6. Give referrals
Continuing on from the previous tip –if you get the impression that the person you’re talking to isn’t relevant to your business, but you know of someone else at the event that may be of interest to them, you can refer them to the other person. This will help you to make good business connections as your contacts will remember you as the referrer.
7. Take two business cards
At networking events there is a lot of exchanging of business cards – when talking to someone, ask for two business cards. Don’t just take one for yourself, but also take one for someone you may know who may be interested in their business, which ties in with the point above.
8. Time management
It is important to keep track of time at networking events. If it’s a breakfast seminar, then you will only have about 30 to 45 minutes to network and if you’ve given yourself the goal of talking to 10 people that gives you about three to four minutes with each person. So make sure to manage your time effectively – don’t spend 20 minutes talking to someone you already know or have met at a previous networking event, but rather spend your time talking to new people.
9. Write everything down
If you don’t have a great memory, keep a pen and paper in your pocket and write everything down. If you’re going to meet 10 people in an hour you can’t guarantee yourself that you will remember the finer details of your conversation with each person, so it’s best to keep a written record of who you’ve spoken to and their line of business, along with a few details to jog your memory.
10. Follow up
Most of important of all: follow up! Follow up with your newly formed contact the next day and remind them of what your business has to offer to gauge their interest. If you don’t follow up with your new contacts within one to two days, you’ve just wasted the entire networking event.
Now take a deeper dive into the benefits of networking to expand your knowledge of this area further.
Networking is one of the most valuable activities you can do for your career, so make the most of it.
- Prepare and have a plan for what you want to achieve. Don't spend all your time talking to the colleagues you came with or people you know.
- Think about your network beyond the event and contacts you can refer.
- Always follow up!
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